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 […]
I knew that I needed God, but had no earthly idea of where to go from there. I didn’t want a repeat of my previous experience with religion; I wanted to know a loving God, not one who smites people with lightning bolts for asking questions.
I decided to try a Catholic Church since the kindest and most loving person I have ever met told me that he had learned to love from the Catholic Church. As soon as I walked into the church I felt God’s presence all around me like a warm embrace. At that moment I knew that I was home.
A couple of years ago, I sat in my office and watched a video that Life Teen posted of the newest Life Support box being packaged. I sat, awestruck, at the great things that were going to be coming my way. I got excited at all of the new Life Nights and retreat sessions I could plan with these incredible materials… and then I waited.
My entire mission team in Houston made a commitment to each other to reach out to the poor and the homeless every chance we get. We carry bottles of water, granola bars, and blankets in our car for anyone who may be in need. But more than that, we commit to asking the homeless their names and how we can specifically pray for them.
And this year, the poor and homeless have blessed me.
I had never seen the Gospel so vibrantly lived out! Every day… Even every meal started with songs of praise. Throughout the day, needy people knocked on the mission base door to seek help. Help for feeding their children. Help for paying their medical bills. Sometimes, just an ear to listen. The missionaries prayed with them and helped them in whatever way they could.
This past week I was left breathless and inspired at the same moment. My daddy Jim, the man whose love for my mother gave me life, breathed his last breath. It was a sudden death that brought him into eternal life. His life inspired me in more ways than a three minute eulogy can ever proclaim and to this moment he continues to inspire me.
Since starting my college career, I have seen both a member of my graduating class and a onetime friend that I have grown up with take their own lives. I have seen the pain and sadness that it causes to their friends and family alike and it chills me to think that not very long ago, that could have been me. I thank God every day, that I had all the wonderful people of Life Teen to show me God’s love personified in the world, because without you… I truly don’t know if I would be here today.
On Saturday evening of that week, I led my teens to a hotel on Copacabana beach to watch the Papal Prayer Vigil from above. I decided I was too “worn out” to actually sit on the beach with the other 3 million people (#WeakSauce). When we arrived in the hotel I sat down on the couch watching everything on TV. After a few minutes on the couch, I looked over to the balcony; my teens were eagerly kneeling in adoration.
I accepted a ministry position at a parish that had a floundering youth ministry program, and was confident I would rebuild it. In fact, at one of my first staff meetings I boldly declared that, “by the end of the year, there will be at least 100 teens at every Life Night.” I am the youth ministry messiah, and I have come to save your parish.
I could share my faith with anyone at my college, even become a full-time missionary where I would live a life of sharing, yet when I was home why was it so difficult to share Jesus with my own dad?
I promised myself that I would do all that I could to show him the love of Christ. I wrote him a long letter recalling all the ways I saw Christ in him and letting him know how much I loved and respected him in spite of all we had gone through. After this something began to change in his heart; an openness I hadn’t seen before.