24 January 2016

Thy Kingdom Come

During Adoration at FOCUS Conference, I was ready for God to ask me to do something radical. 

People often tell stories from these conferences where God does amazing things in their hearts during Adoration. Emotionally, my experience of coming to know and have a relationship with Jesus happened in high school. In college I learned important things (like that missing Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin, and that Jesus is present in the Eucharist) which built a solid foundation for me to have an intellectual faith.  I suppose I never really "needed" a super emotional encounter with Jesus at FOCUS Conference because I was already in pretty constant conversation with Him. This year was different though. I'd been having a pretty emotional week just realizing how I thought I'd been praying but I'd mostly been reading books about HOW to have a relationship with Jesus instead of actually having one, and then complaining to Him about why things weren't better between us. I'm annoying. 

Anyways, it all culminated with Sr. Bethany Madonna's keynote on prayer which had me hiding tears from the gentlemen next to me for the duration. I just knew that I was going to be a wreck once Jesus came so I moved closer to the altar and away from anyone I knew, ready for a snotty sobbing hot mess of a holy hour. 

Jesus came. I prayed. I told Him I was ready for anything. I told Him that I would go to the ends of the earth, quit my job, go back to FOCUS, go on a foreign mission, work for the Church, even join a convent. I was ready. 

Then I waited for Him to tell me what to do. 

And waited.

And waited. 

Then I started begging. Anywhere but here, anything but what I'm doing now. Working in finance, being a single young adult in the parish I grew up in, it's all too difficult. This mission field is too hard. I can't do it. 

But He can. 

So here I am. Working in finance, being a single young adult in the parish I grew up in. Making plans to change the whole world by changing my family, my parish, my diocese, my state, my country, and the world. In that order. Looking for people who want to intentionally invest in others and teach them how to teach others to make disciples. Living the Great Commission. Praying hard for God to shower us with graces of all kinds. Making His Kingdom come. 

Lord, come quickly! 
St. Paul, pray for us.

18 January 2016

Dear Jesus, Please Respond in the Comments.

I have a new Saint Servant of God best friend. I've admired her from afar for a few years but I'm reading her journal right now and I just love her so much. Her name is Elisabeth Leseur and she is so worldly and so holy at the same time, I just wish she could be my spiritual director.

One of the things I especially love about her is that in her journal, every few entries she talks about new resolutions to do God's will better. She makes these resolutions at the turn of new calendar years and new liturgical seasons, and she's constantly talking about becoming a new self. I'm not sure she realized how often she wrote about changing her ways, but reading through the journal chronologically, it was a lot. She never dwells on why she needs to become new, only mentioning short comings here and there. She always talks about who she is renewing herself for: Jesus, and "the one whom my soul loves most," her beloved atheist husband, Felix.

I remember when I was a missionary, every single Sunday I would walk into the Church before Mass and reflect on the ways that I'd screwed up that week. The lists were long. I was so thankful that God never stopped giving me chances to become better each week. It was like I was taking life one week at a time, always failing, and always getting back up for another round.

These days, the days drag on and the months fly by. Its a very odd sensation. I'm still immensely grateful that the Lord's mercies are new every morning because I'm still a terrible sinner and desperately in need of God's grace.

Since FOCUS Conference and a "young adult" group starting at my parish, I have some questions. They're questions for myself, for God, and for you, if you have answers.

I know everyone's circumstances are different and everyone's called to holiness that looks different, but what does a holy young adult's life look like? (After all, isn't this our ultimate goal?) There have got to be some common threads.

What kind of support does a young adult need from a priest? from a parish? from a young adult group?

How can we build an atmosphere that welcomes both saints and sinners? the well catechized and the poorly catechized?

Do we need "programming?" What purpose will the programs serve?

How can we both spiritually nourish and provide social activities? What should the balance be between them?

Once the group is formed, how can we avoid becoming "cliquish?"

What does discipleship look like within this context? How much time can we expect "disciple-makers" to devote to discipleship/evangelization/small groups?

And this is a question I've been wanting to know the answer to since I left FOCUS:
Is it fair for me to want a group of friends who "gets it?"

If the goal is deep transformation and making disciples who know how to make disciples, I'm in, 1000%. If the goal is something else, I'm not so sure.

Servant of God, Elisabeth Leseur, pray for me.

06 January 2016

The Art of Living

This past week I have been attending the FOCUS Student Leadership Summit.

Of course now that 36 whole hours have passed since its conclusion, as my extroversion would have it, I have tentatively processed the conference. I am going to record my first thoughts about what Jesus wants to do in my heart as a result of the conference, and then revisit in a few months when I have more tangible evidence.

I pray pretty regularly. I try to attend Mass three to four times per week including Sundays, and I try to pray for an hour (but at least thirty minutes) either before or after each Mass. Usually I spend some of the time in conversation with Jesus and some of the time reading scripture and/or some other spiritual reading.

Lately, my "personal prayer" has been less of a conversation and more of me repeating "come Holy Spirit, teach me how to pray" over and over again.

This week, a FOCUS alum and I were talking and he mentioned that he'd been praying for God to send some other FOCUS alum or other holy men to help him get a men's group started at his parish.
WHAT? It almost knocked the wind out of me. I've spent a lot of time thinking about how terrible it is that I'm on my own at my parish, and complaining about how poorly catechized a lot of our parishioners are. I've even spent a lot of time thinking about ways it could be better. But have I prayed about it a single time?.... Not that I can recall. #howembarrassing
... and I call myself a Christian?!!!

It seems like such a basic truth, but it felt so radical in the moment. God wants us to ask BIG things of Him. And He wants us to pray for the specific needs we have and the specific desires of our hearts. His power is made perfect in our weakness, and I've been hiding mine from Him. I feel the need to apologize to all of my friends who sat on the other end of phone conversations with me while I went on and on complaining. And I feel the need to apologize to Jesus for not trusting that He can and will help me carry the weight of evangelizing my parish. Jesus desires to keep His promises to me, and He wants me to ask Him to do HUGE things in my life, and then be docile to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to move.

The other conviction I came away with was that discipleship is the only way to change the world for Jesus Christ. I have been convicted of this many times before and I'm sure I will be reminded many times in the future. If I'm not doing discipleship, I'm not succeeding as a Christian. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, "to evangelize is to teach the art of living." Discipleship takes that a step further and invites us to teach others how to teach the art of living as well. Jesus says in Matthew's Gospel, "you will know them by their fruit."

Since I left FOCUS in the last three years, I have invested intentionally in just one person and she is not currently investing in anyone. To cut myself a little slack, things move MUCH more slowly in parish life than they do on college campuses. But this is still no excuse. There are souls in my parish and outside of my parish who have never been invited to make Jesus the center of their lives. There are lives waiting to be transformed by love that steps down from Heaven to die on a cross for our sins.

Father Mike Schmitz quoted St. Francis Xavier as saying, "How many souls are in Hell because you have more learning than you have love?"
How many more books will I read before I get off my ass and start putting the Great Commission into action?

Twelve disciples, in 1983 years, made over a billion Catholics. But what if there had been thirteen?
If I make two disciples, and they make two, and they make two, and so on, in 20 years over one million people will know Jesus and know how to make Him known. But what if I make three?

St. Francis Xavier, pray for us!