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March for Life: Four Walks

Sara Zarb, UF student

“Hey Sara, let’s go to Gator Nights tonight.”

“Ok, but I have to go to bed pretty early tonight, because I have to get up at 7 a.m.!”

“Where are you going?”

“It doesn’t matter…”

“What? Just tell me!”

“I’m going to March for Life in St. Augustine tomorrow.”

“Oh…”

             This was the conversation I had Friday night with my friend, who is pro-choice. Notice that I wanted to avoid the conversation altogether. I was afraid my friend and I would get into an argument, just by me saying I was going to a local March for Life!

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             Why was I reluctant to tell her? Because I’m the minority. I speak for the unborn, which is something I don’t see often, especially on a college campus.

             The St. Augustine March for Life, however, was a gathering of like-minded people. We were all in this together. We were all there for the same purpose. We were all advocates for the protection of the most vulnerable.

             Before the March, we attended Mass, we sang, we listened to a few testimonies and speakers, and then we started the March. Seeing extremely passionate people, from ages 1 to 92 (yes, seriously!) made my heart happy. I was astounded.

             Pro-life activist Stephanie Gray spoke at the closing of the event. She was absolutely brilliant. She gave us many scenarios and answered them from the other perspective (pro-choice), to give us insight into what to expect while discussing our beliefs to people. This brought me peace. I realized there is an effective way to communicate our pro-life message.

             After her speech, I went up and introduced myself. I told her I was a college student at the University of Florida, and I’m struggling to find my voice, to communicate to others about what I believe in.

             “How do you do it?” I asked her. “I’m in the minority at UF as far as my pro-life beliefs, and I’m so scared to talk to people. Like, Stephanie, you really know your stuff! What would you recommend I do?”

And Stephanie gave me three points: Pray. Study. Practice.

             “First,” she answered, “you have to pray to God for wisdom, because we can’t do this alone. Then, study! Do your research. Know the material, know the facts. Then, practice. See how people respond to what you say. Know what’s effective, and what’s not.”

             When we pray, we connect with God. If we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with Him, then we are more able to truly inspire others. Let’s pray to God to give us strength; to give mothers and families the strength to overcome the difficult obstacles they are facing for the unborn, for all the children He created, but didn’t have the same opportunity as we. Pray to the Holy Spirit to guide not only us, but those we are trying to reach.

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             Then, research. Learn from others who have had these tough conversations, understand what has already been said, what has already been accomplished. Find legitimate sources: another good pro-life advocate (besides Stephanie Gray) is Abby Johnson, former Clinical Planned Parenthood Director, now Pro-Life Activist. Staying up-to-date with reliable sources can help us with our research and understanding the topic.

             Finally, practice! And remember, it’s not an argument – it’s a conversation.  “So, I recently went to the March for Life…” Surprisingly, the more we discuss, the more we can delve deeply into an understanding of why that person believes in abortion. Sometimes, there is a previous experience attached to the person’s belief, causing him or her to think differently about abortion than we do. Above all else, let’s be respectful and persuasive. Flexible and firm. Enthusiastic and calm. Instilling balance into our conversations creates a positive atmosphere.

             No one said advocating for pro-life would be easy. And yet, God is encouraging. He is encouraging us to voice, to showcase what we believe in, and to not hold back.

Matthew Fulton, UF Student

             The full beauty of the Catholic faith was on display during our three-day trip to Washington, DC. We met some who had driven 48 hours to the nation’s capital. Why? Why take that amount of time out of your busy life for an event that couldn’t have lasted more than three hours?

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             I learned that it was because people care. They care and love so much that they are willing to do irrational things like sit in a car or bus for two days just to take a stand for the sanctity of life. During the March itself we waddled like penguins, unable to move more than a few feet a minute for long stretches. We were packed in tight, it was loud, it was cold (for me at least), and we had every reason to complain about our discomfort. But nobody was upset. In fact, everyone was smiling. There was true joy in these people’s hearts, joy stemming from the fact that life in America is winning. You could feel it, and it was awesome. Rosaries were offered up for the unborn, songs of praise rang out, and banners from all around the country were raised proudly in the sky. It was neat being reminded of the universal Church. Sometimes you get too caught up in your own little world, and in today’s media environment it can seem like you’re the only pro-lifer around. Experiencing the March for Life myself makes me confident that one day soon we are going to win this fight, and we won’t need to march anymore.

Allie Jackson, UF Student

             This year was my second year attending the March for Life in D.C. It honestly is one of those events that I will always look forward to. This year’s March was especially exciting. Bigger steps were taken with the passing of an anti-abortion bill and many government representatives, including the President of the United States, addressed the March for Life. The band Plumb opened up the rally with her beautiful worship songs, Sister Bethany Madonna prayed with us and gave a wonderful talk, and one of the most powerful testimonies I ever heard was given by Congresswoman Beutler. We peacefully march for those who cannot defend themselves. As JPII says, “Every human person…is a being of inestimable worth created in the image and likeness of God.” Every person is formed, loved for and created by God with a worth and value that we cannot even comprehend. We were given a chance to live this beautiful gift of life and we marched for those whose chance was taken away from them. We also marched for women;  for those hearts that are torn or broken; for those who cannot stand for themselves.

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             JPII mentions that love is the most basic human vocation. We marched simply for that love. Love of all life. This march is unique, because as amazing as it is, our goal is eventually to not have to march anymore. But until then, we will always march, we will always fight and we will always pray for those who can’t. This march gave us that opportunity and allowed us to see the beautiful life that God has for each and every one of us. The March for Life in D.C. is a truly humbling experience that I will never forget. God Bless!

 

Morgan English, UF Student

             I was given the opportunity to attend the March For Life in Washington, D.C. for the first time. The weeks leading up to the March I anticipated with great excitement, yet I was slightly nervous. I was excited to be able to march for something that I hold so close to my heart, the gift of human life, which the world tries to destroy daily. After arriving to D.C. and attending the National Prayer Vigil for Life Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, all my worries went away. I couldn’t imagine a better way to kick the weekend and march off than to participate in Mass with thousands —  yes thousands — of other Catholics united for the same reason, to give thanks to God for the gift of human life.

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             The next morning came time for Mass with all the other Floridians in St. Peter’s Catholic Church and the March. As we walked up to the Mall it was beautiful to see all the people so excited and filled with joy to join the thousands to march. Before the actual March we got to hear from President Trump, Vice-President Pence, Sister Bethany Madonna (love her!!), Pam Tebow (Go Gators!!), a congresswoman, and many other speakers. The most moving part was to hear all these people speak about how they respect and fight for life. It was very empowering. Then it came time for the March! I’m not sure I have seen such a large mob of people somehow line up, somewhat ordered.    

              The March was absolutely beautiful. There were young children, women of all ages, young and old men, and former Planned Parenthood and abortion facility workers all marching together. It took about two-and-a-half hours to complete the march. Throughout that time, we prayed, sang, and chanted. Although I wish we did not have to have this March, and pray we won’t have to drive on a bus for 12 hours to attend another; but if we have to be there again, I will sign up in a heartbeat. This is something everyone should pray about attending because if we do not continue to stand up for human life, who will? My favorite sign was “I am the Pro-Life generation,” because this is so true. Our generation continues to respect and defend life more and more, while at the same time we are the generation most susceptible to ending life. The impact we, as young adults, have on this movement is greater than any other generation. Let’s take advantage of that and defend life!

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Connecting the Camino

By: Michael Arias

            I sat there, hunched over, in the dark of an old cathedral, crying. I’m not one for crying, unless there’s something in my eyes, but that’s a different story. I was legitimately and genuinely crying, for the first time I could remember in a long, long time.

            I was all alone on the Camino of Santiago in Spain, a country relatively foreign to me.

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            The country was undergoing a heat wave, and more importantly, I was getting sick very quickly, with a fever looming on the horizon. I could feel my energy draining with every step I had taken since I woke up that morning. The day started with me feeling like trash when I woke up at 6 a.m., and now, after four hours of walking only half the distance I could normally walk in that same amount of time, I was feeling like I had nothing left. It was a bad situation to be in. The next sizable town was easily six, if not more, hours ahead of me given my current pace. The village offered little to nothing, and the thought of going backwards: akin to giving up.

            It was big question-and-answer time for me. Why continue walking the Camino? It was at that moment literally turning into a living nightmare of pain and loneliness.

            I originally started the Camino half because I love the outdoors, half as a pilgrimage, and half because I had a month left on my student visa. I know that adds up to three halves, but hey, that was my deciding logic and motivation up to that point, and it had been totally sufficient before I got sick. Now though as I felt my strength disappearing, I needed better reasons to go forward.  

            But that’s when it hit me. I wasn’t alone. I mean, not as alone as I thought I was. I had already lived five months in Spain, studying Spanish. Being in a foreign country, a foreign continent, was no longer a radically new experience. Having been alone, without known family or friends, for five months had taught me an important lesson, and that lesson was about to be my saving grace: I had God with me, the same God that I saw every time I visited my church at home in Florida, prayed to at home, and talked to at home.

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            Jesus knew how to understand not only my English but also my American mannerisms and ways of thinking, an ability that suddenly became so very attractive when trying to live on a day-to-day basis as the foreigner in a very communal university student-residence. Those previous five months had taught me that I could rely on Jesus always. He always looked out for me, understood me, and helped me.

So in that dark, cool cathedral where I sat crying, I turned to Him.

            To this day I don’t know if those tears I cried were of joy or sadness. Joy because I had realized how truly present God was with me, or sadness because I had forgotten how truly present He was and had thought I was alone.

            The important part was that He was with me, and if He had gotten me through five months in Spain, he could get me through one more on the Camino, sick or not sick. Consequently, I got my new and ultimately more powerful source of motivation: the Camino would continue has a walk with Christ.

            It may sound obvious to you: Camino de Santiago translates to the Walk of Saint James, James was a Saint, Saints walk with Christ, so it’s a Walk with Christ. You get it, I get it, great.

            But here’s the catch: (I can only speak for myself, but I’m sure I’m not alone in this.) There’s a big gap between knowing something with your mind and knowing it with your heart.

            It took me to be in a very much not-so-fun situation to finally connect the two dots: knowing that God was with me and feeling and acting upon the knowledge that He was with me. My hope is that by recounting this little portion of my experience I am in some way helping you connect your dots too.

 

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.

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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.

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              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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Prayer Over Playlists: My Annual Lenten Journey

Every year as Lent begins, I close the Spotify app and make a promise not to listen to music until Easter. No, I don’t plug my ears anytime I hear music anywhere, but I do refrain from plugging in my headphones on the bus, while I’m studying, or any other time that I would be listening by myself.

I get crazy looks from my friends when they ask me what I give up for Lent and I understand them completely. For our generation, music is constant, the beats are everywhere and sometimes you just need that favorite rhythm of yours to take you somewhere else or bring you back from it. I depend on music, which is exactly why I give it up every Lent.

I want to depend on God like I do my music. While any good Catholic knows in their heart that God will always come first, everyone has had that week when they’ve replayed that Kendrick song more times than they’ve prayed.

Lent is the chance to break from that, or rather put our regular habits on pause. For 40 days, I break my bubble of beats and look up to the people around me on the bus and on the walk to class. I try to pray and ask what God wants of me this day and every day.

The first few days of my music fast are always hard. My favorite songs stream into my head unbidden and it would make me feel so much better if I could just listen to a couple seconds of a couple songs.

But every year I push through. Sometimes I stumble, but never for that long. Lent isn’t about perfect prayer, but honest effort to grow closer to the One you really couldn’t live without. For me, I need silence to hear Him. Quiet moments where it’s just Him and I, no music to run to when I don’t want to think about the hard stuff.

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Photo by: Jonathan Assink

Despite this being the third year I have completed this fast, I’m still surprised by how much more I enjoy the music at Mass during it, because I sing in praise of Him and not in fulfillment of my desires. Even after Lent is over, I always feel less inclined to drown myself in music, too. The songs that get stuck in my head are gone, and for the most part, I find that I can think more clearly.

After my fast, it’s as if I have been strengthened in these 40 days to reach into next year, always a little less dependent on my playlist. After all, we sacrifice things during Lent not just out of duty to suffer in a small way as He suffered in a big way, but to fortify and remind ourselves of our priorities to God and to each other.

Don’t get me wrong—I still listen to music once Lent is over, and I still always need these 40 days to disconnect every year. There’s nothing wrong with listening to music regularly and I am certainly not one of iron will. I get caught in music when I’m stressed and distract myself from prayer at some point every year, so I really believe it is a blessing that we have Lent every year to break from our habits.

 

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Photo by: Ben White

If you’ve only just decided to give up or begin something for Lent, it’s not too late. Start something good now, like praying a certain prayer every day, and keep going after Easter. Lent, much like New Year’s, isn’t the only time when we get a new beginning.

If giving up music altogether is unfeasible, try listening to it less or just listening to music that glorifies Him. Or better yet, pray and reflect on what it is that you lean on that isn’t related to your faith, something that might distract you often or pull you away from Him. We all have our comforts and there’s nothing wrong with that.

This Lent and every Lent I pray that my earthly comforts do not become my crutches, and that I always remember that it’s God I truly depend on.

 

Written by: Dolores Hinckley, Restless Heart Communications

Featured image by: Jan Vašek

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
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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
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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
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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 New Meaning for “Catholic Gators”

Every morning as I walk to my 10:40am class, I pass a murky, green pond next to Little Hall.  This is no beautiful body of water, in fact I would never have paid any attention to it if it wasn’t for the strange sound I heard coming from it one day.  A deep croaking noise emanated from the water.  I stopped for a second, then simply walked on.  It was an ordinary, forgettable thing.  It became extraordinary when I noticed this sound almost every day.  Soon, I was stopping and staring at this insignificant pond daily.  No one else seemed bothered by the noise besides me.  Regardless, every time I heard the peculiar noise, my eyes would scan the area, but I could never see anything but some plants and some cloudy water.

I thought I was going crazy.  Finally, in a last ditch attempt to salvage my sanity I walked with my roommate to the pond.  When we heard the noise together she told me it was an alligator.  She said it so casually, yet I was in shock.  I didn’t know that alligators made noises and why had I never seen the alligator?  My roommate couldn’t spot the alligator either, so least I wasn’t that crazy.  Yes, this is a true story and I still hear the gator almost every day and I still look for it.  I cannot tell you why, but this evasive gator is on my mind all the time.  I have not succeeded in spotting it yet, but I know that it is there and I desperately want to find it.

Then I started thinking.  I heard a sound and I felt a presence.  I knew something was there and I sought it out constantly.  In my confusion and doubt, somebody told me the truth of where the sound came from and now I listen more closely and search more ardently.  God does the same thing for us.  Each human being on earth has the potential to know God.  God speaks to all of us.  Many of us pass by God, like I originally did with the gator.  Some search to hear the voice of God without knowing who He is.  But, once we know it is Him our search becomes guided, purposeful, and zealous.  Though we cannot see, we are not blind.  What a beautiful thing it is to know that it is God!  How important it is for us to spread His Word!

So many people go through life hearing an alligator croak here or there, never being enlightened to know what it is.  Our curiosity and anguish due to not knowing the source of the noise encourages us to search.  Searching is tedious and not easy, however, and many of us will give up.  That is why those who have the gift of this truth, must spread the Word.  We must share the joy of what our faith tells us: you are not crazy, yes there is a sound, yes I cannot see it the alligator either, but yes I am sure it is there.  Yes, as Saint Augustine says, “our hearts are restless,” and yes I crave the presence of God as much as you do, and yes we will see Him one day if we continue our search.

And yes, I got all of this from an alligator, but is it not humbling to think that God intended this metaphor to unfold before my eyes?  Originating from such a mundane thing, God told me so much and we all have the potential to see God in the ordinary things. This gave “Catholic Gators” an entirely new meaning for me.  He also reminded me of the most basic pillar of our Catholicism.  Faith.  I still haven’t found the gator, but I am pretty sure it is there.  Of course, I sometimes wonder if my mind is playing tricks on me, but don’t we all?  It is true, God reveals Himself to all of us in different ways, but having faith is fundamental in knowing that God is with us.  But, if we still have doubts, which many of us do from time to time, He might just stir your “restless heart” with an alligator croak.

Written by: Kayla Thurber, Restless Heart Communications

Photo by: Trista Rada

 

 

 

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