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 […]
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.