My Faith/Teen Faith

You Gotta Eat: More than a Family’s Faith

I grew up with very loving parents that expressed their faith so well. Their parents had passed the Catholic faith down to them, and they in turn showed me how to be Catholic. We did what all Catholic families did: Go to Mass as a family, check. Pray a rosary together, check. Invite our pastor over for dinner, check. Wake up at 4 am to attend the Our Lady of Guadalupe or Cursillo mañanitas, check. We did it all, we were *that* family. I accepted it, I ran with it because I figured my parents wouldn’t steer me wrong. When I look back however, I realize I used to “live” my parent’s faith. Did I enjoy it? Sure. Did I embrace it for my own? Not really.

If Your Family is Catholic, You’re Catholic

Years ago, I was working at a dry-cleaners with a fellow Hispanic. On a Friday during Lent, I asked her if she wanted a fish sandwich from Carl’s Jr. She declined and said she would take a regular burger. I told her we couldn’t eat meat because it was Friday… during Lent. She then told me she was a non-denominational Christian, not a Catholic… I WAS SHOOK. She actually used to be Catholic because her extended family was Catholic but she converted because — in her words — “I just didn’t understand Church teaching, I don’t worship Mary, and I want to do my own thing.”

The crazy thing is that this is becoming more and more common. So many of our friends are leaving the Church or have stopped practicing their faith altogether because they no longer want to “live” the faith of their parents. We hear it all the time: “It’s 2018, get with the times;” “Church is boring;” “I’ll get to it when I’m older;” “I need to do my own thing right now;” “There are too many rules.” There are countless excuses as to why people stop practicing the faith. I could have easily said, “Mom and dad, I’m sorry but I no longer want to wake up at 4 am for the mañanitas,” and then have done my own thing. But instead I started asking myself, “How can I form my own relationship with God? Are there young Catholics like myself that are on fire for the Lord? How do I make my faith my own?”

You Gotta Eat!

My abuela once told me that at some point in my life, Jesus was going to call ME into a personal relationship with Him. She told me that Jesus was going to ask ME to follow Him, that Jesus was going to choose ME to use as His instrument. My parents can’t live my faith and I can’t live theirs; Jesus is calling ME just like He is calling them.

When He did call, it was to NET Ministries, which helped me start living my faith in a radical way and eating from the Lord’s goodness. As a NET missionary, I started leading retreats for middle school and high school teens all across the U.S., which led me to return home and become a full-time youth minister at a parish — and I am still at the parish to this day.

It took me a while to realize that our Lord, being the wonderful Father that He is, has a desire to feed us. He’s a lot like the mother of any Hispanic family: they make sure you EAT! Seriously, every time I visit my mom, she sees this scrawny dude who needs to eat and thus, the tacos don’t stop coming. God is a lot like Mexican moms, but better: He knows our deepest hungers and desires to satisfy them. If I yearn to start all over with a clean slate and am seeking forgiveness, Jesus is waiting with open arms in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If I long to physically consume love, Jesus is waiting with the Eucharistic feast on His bountiful table. If I have a desire to be married one day, to be a priest or religious, Jesus is waiting for me. He knows we have to eat, and wants us to be satisfied!

Seek with All Your Heart

I stopped living my parents’ faith and living my own when I stepped outside myself and immersed myself deeply in my faith and community. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jesus was there all along waiting for me to live this life with all His glory in mind, with all the blessings He has to give and the love that is always attainable to me. How can you make your faith your own and stop trying to live the faith of your parents? Follow Jesus. Here are two ways you can do that today:

1. Make Time for Him — Go to Him, run to Him, talk to Him, cry to Him, get to know Him. Talk to Him in prayer. How did you become best friends with your best friend? Did you just stare at him or her and then become best friends? Nope, you talked to him or her. “When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you” (Jeremiah 29:12). Jesus is your best friend — talk to Him. I dare you.

2. Get Plugged In — Continue going to Mass, pray a rosary, invite your parish pastor over for dinner, go to the mañanitas, but do it because YOU want to! Falling in love with your faith through the sacraments and traditions is such beautiful thing. Attend your parish youth group and meet fellow young Catholics who are hungry for the Lord and want to be fed. We are not meant to do this on our own, we are meant to walk together. If you don’t know how to get involved, ask your youth minister — we love to help!

I love my faith because Jesus loves me, because He shed His precious blood for me. I absolutely love to be fed by the one who created me. I have to constantly remind myself that whenever I am hungry, the Lord will always provide — but I have to be willing to go to Him. You can have this faith too — you just gotta eat!

About the Author

Ivan Garcia

I was born in Long Beach, CA but grew up in Phoenix, AZ. I’m a cradle Catholic but didn’t start getting into my faith until after high school. I served with NET ministries ’11-’12, traveling across the USA putting on retreats for middle and high school teens. Through NET, I felt God’s call to full-time youth ministry. Several years later, I’m still in the trenches. I’m an avid reader and movie-watcher, and a huge advocate for Vitamin T (Tacos, Tamales, and Tortas). I’m happiest when I combine hobbies, Tolkien, and tacos.

Want to write for Life Teen? Click Here to learn more.