2014 has been a monumental year for Life Teen! It’s humbling that every year we get to be instruments in the hand of God, spreading His glory all around the world. We set out this year to breathe in God’s inspiration, and to inspire others to draw closer to Him. As we were thinking back […]
On November 19, 2004, my father lost his battle to brain cancer. I remember the tears, the “What now?” moments, and the pain. That’s not all I remember, though; in fact it’s what I remember least.
For the first nine years of my life, I remember the laughs he gave me when I would sit on his lap and he would bounce his leg up and down. I remember coming home from school and seeing the snacks he would make for us waiting on the table. I remember watching TV with him as my mother would leave for work, and watching her return hours later and the two of us still sitting in the exact position we were when she left. Most of all, I remember the love.
The Holy Spirit is active in the Life Teen movement and lives are being changed across the room, across the street, and across the world. Through God’s grace, our dream has become a reality. Every day we recommit to our mission to “lead teens closer to Christ” because we are confident that in response to the needs of our world, God is going to continue to bless the fruit of our labors. What keeps us going is this reality: Life Teen is an instrument that God is using to make saints.
When I first heard Isabel’s testimony at a retreat, I was tearing up just thinking about what life would be like without having parents around. It made me wonder… do I respect and value my own parents? The words of advice that I couldn’t stop thinking about from Isabel were, “Always love and respect your parents before it’s too late.” That talk really inspired and helped everyone realize that our parents should be loved, respected, and valued every day while we have them with us.
I found, through Life Teen, where I fit in perfectly: as a piece of God’s great puzzle. I was meant to be different than how society was teaching me to live; I have been called to be more and to truly “set the world on fire” through showing love to others just as Christ showed me.
As soon as I walked in the church, I was shocked at what I saw – TEENS!! I had thought they’d gone extinct in the Church! Looking around, I started seeing some familiar faces from school. I was incredibly happy. Then Mass started. I was expecting to hear the usual adult cantor and some sound resembling “song” emanating from the congregation.
To my surprise, Mass started with an upbeat, piano driven version of “Your Grace Is Enough” by Matt Maher. Piano, drums, three guitars, a saxophone, even a violin. These guys had it all.
The more I experience life, the more I learn that being a Christian or a hero isn’t being perfect… as a matter of fact it’s fighting through the imperfections. It is recognizing that the world needs to see something bigger than ourselves and acting on that. When we ask God for more of Him and less of us, we are asking to be smaller that He may be bigger because the reality of our lives is we all need a hero far bigger than ourselves.
I signed up for Life Teen’s Camp Tepeyac only days before it started, confident that God wanted me to go. It was the first night, second to last obstacle in the messy games course when I hurt my shin. I couldn’t put much weight on it but after some ice and bandages, it was doing better. While going to get cleaned up, I ended up slipping, falling on my arm, and breaking it. Waiting in the ER, despite the panic attack, extreme shivering, and shin and elbow pain, I still felt like God had me there for a reason.
Early in the week our whole group quickly humbled ourselves and just let God do His thing! Our parish is located in an area that is not known for diversity, so visiting an Indian Reservation and learning about their culture was a first for my teens. The residents and family members would come out, help the teens on the houses, and talk to them about their life. It was amazing to see these teens be inspired by the residents’ culture and attitude.
To make it clear, LTLC isn’t your normal retreat. The special thing about LTLC that separates it from anything else is the level of intensity. Almost every speaker started off with, “I’m going to be honest.” In return, the teens opened up on a level I’ve never seen. Additionally, it seemed like every teen genuinely wanted to be there and wanted more.
At the very beginning of my second semester, in a freak medical accident, I suddenly lost my ability to walk. I had to be hospitalized and stay at a rehab center for a long period of time, beginning to rebuild my life and relearn how to do so many things that I had taken for granted. I didn’t understand how things could get any worse. I didn’t understand why God would put me through so much.
I spent the last week in a place where Christ breaks heavy chains and calms fears and instills joy. A place where young people can see God in the service offered to them and in the love freely given to them, and where a campfire can create a space for them to step out in courage and testify to their life in Christ.
To my surprise, Mathieu stood up and went right for the microphone. I couldn’t believe my eyes. This teen had barely said anything to me let alone a group of over fifty teenagers! As he stood at the microphone he said, “I haven’t really talked about this very much but when I was ten years old my older sister died in a car accident. I found myself so angry that I locked myself in my room for years playing video games so that I could hide the pain.”
It was two days after my college graduation. I was supposed to be happy. Proud. Filled with a sense of achievement, satisfaction, and security.
Why, then, was I instead consumed with feelings of frustration, confusion, disappointment, and resentment?
I didn’t have a job lined up. I didn’t get into graduate school.
I, however, learned that the Catholic Church voices the truth everyday, to all that will or will not listen. She is not afraid of controversy, or to correct you, because every doctrine has real purpose and meaning. It is what has strengthened her over 2000 years. Throughout this time so many have bravely given their lives as martyrs, to be a witness for the truth.
Last weekend, her mom was not able to take care of her, so she stayed with my family. The time spent with her is always a great trial of patience. I found myself constantly failing to remind myself that she does in fact have a mental disorder, and her actions are justified in the eyes of God. I would snap at her and gossip about her to my family members, who felt the same way.
However, I had just prayed a prayer that I wanted Jesus to be the Lord of my life, not just part of it. Once I had finally let go of my life, once I had surrendered it over to Jesus, I felt overwhelmed by His grace and His mercy. I truly knew at the moment that God was real and that He undoubtably loved me.
St. JPII inspired me to draw closer to God. It was from this relationship that I heard the Lord inviting me to follow him in a deeper way by entering the seminary. As I reach the end of my third year in formation, my desire to lay down my life in service to Christ and His Church, and to serve my brothers and sisters out of a genuine love for them because of my love for Christ has continued to grow stronger.
Editor’s Note: The author of this blog has asked to remain anonymous. “Guilt is feeling bad about what you’ve done. Shame is feeling bad about who you are.” I was listening to a podcast when I heard this sentiment. I was floored. As someone who has struggled with shame for a long time, I had […]
I got together with an old friend a few months ago. Toney is a friend I met long ago at the Steubenville West conference, and the last number of years of Toney’s life have truly inspired me. While we were talking I was moved to share his story with you; He has given me permission […]