Fan Into Flame

“I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.”

2 Tim. 1:6-7

33046843271_8f34aad325_k.jpg

The very first weekend of February was our big Spring retreat called Fan Into Flame. We had over 70 students join us out in Caldwell, TX at Crossroads Retreat Center for a weekend full of incredible talks, testimonies, good community, and plenty of time for prayer. This retreat was focused on leading students into a deeper relationship with the Lord. Many of the talks were built around what it means to put Jesus at the center of our lives, and ranged from discussions on reconciliation and worship to receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The talks were spread evenly throughout the weekend, and were broken up by testimonies, small discussion groups, and time for worship and prayer. One of the things that was emphasized over the course of the weekend was the power given to us in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We were reminded of the way the Holy Spirit was given to us first at Pentecost, and how He fills us with His gifts both at Baptism and Confirmation. Many college students we encounter have received both of these sacraments growing up, but have never really owned their faith or put the gifts they received from the Holy Spirit to use. Many students have never actually been asked “why are you Catholic?” or had a need to reclaim the faith they may have been taught in grade school. This retreat provided a space for many of these students to ask themselves why they believe what they believe, and to ask the Holy Spirit to rekindle the fire He’s already given them in the sacraments of initiation.

32792180050_9331eadd83_kThis was the first time for the SPO Texas chapter to have a retreat led almost entirely by students. Each one of the staff members was in charge of supervising student leaders, but the students were the ones running registration, writing and giving the talks, and leading all of the discussion groups. This was a huge step for all of us as a community, and we came out on the other side with an unbelievable amount of trust in one another. The student leaders, many of whom live in Households, stepped up well and went above and beyond in their individual leadership roles. There was something very powerful for the other students on the retreat to watch their peers step up and share the way the Lord has worked in their lives.img_1802

Being a supervisor instead of giving a talk or leading a small group freed me up during the weekend to have an eye for some of the newer students who were just starting to get back into their faith. I had a number of wonderful discussions with some of the girls, and was impressed by how excited they were after the retreat to dive deeper into prayer with the Lord, and come back to the sacraments.

I’m excited to see how the Lord is going to continue calling each one of them into a deeper and more joy-filled life with Him. Pray for us as we walk with these students and encourage them to grow in their relationship with Christ!

Advertisements

Women’s Advent Brunch

Our Women’s Advent Brunch was last Saturday. Here are some pictures with a little explanation of how the morning went!

img_1345
Mini Advent wreath centerpiece waiting to be lit
img_1333
Regan and Angelica, my reliable helpers for the event. I couldn’t have done this without them!
img_1341
The women began the morning by singing some beautiful Advent songs.
img_1349
One of my fellow mission leaders, Teresa, gave a talk on the importance and beauty of the Advent season.
img_1367
One of the women lighting the Advent candle at her table.
img_1372
There was plenty of food to share!
img_1377
Happy Advent! May you enter this season with hopeful anticipation of what’s to come!

 

Are You My Mother?

olow_outsideThe Catholic Student Center here at Texas State is called Our Lady of Wisdom Parish, and is home to a number of different Catholic organizations. Within the umbrella that is Wisdom there is SPO, FOCUS, and various others such as a fraternity, sorority, and Bobcats for Life. Each of these organizations has similar goals as far as leading students closer to Christ, but because our approaches are often different there’s a risk of the community feeling somewhat disjointed. One of our goals for the year is to face this challenge head on and work towards unifying all of these organizations to become a strong Catholic community at Texas State.

A few students from each organization have stepped forward to become Our Lady of Wisdom ambassadors to help bring life back into our inter-organizational relationships. These ambassadors have worked together to create what they call Bobcat Catholic Unity Night. It happens once a week for about two hours and everyone involved at Wisdom is invited and encouraged to attend, regardless of their organizational commitments.

Each week looks a little different, but for the most part the structure has remained the same. The ambassadors lead us in an ice-breaker game to give us the opportunity to get to know each other, and then we hear a talk that is followed by a brief time of discussion and prayer. One of the ambassadors gave a talk on the Eucharist, Fr. David gave a talk on the history of Halloween, and I was invited to give a talk on Mary at the Unity Night a week ago. I was honored to have been given the opportunity to talk about Mary, and a bit overwhelmed at where to even begin!

I had the freedom to talk about anything, as well as the burden of squeezing everything I wanted to say into 20-30 minutes. I went back and re-read portions of my favorite books on Our Lady, and spent a good chunk of time working and reworking the most important points. Over the course of my preparation, I realized how much Mary had been coming up in my life recently. From various, seemingly random conversations with friends to talks at recent retreats it became clear that there was something I was missing about her. There’s a saying I’ve heard that you’re often asked to give the talk you need to hear, and I didn’t understand that fully until I was asked to give this talk. The more I prepared for it, the more I saw how little I actually knew about Our Lady, and how much I had to grow in relationship with her.

If I had been smart, I would have just recorded the talk so I could post it here. But I wasn’t thinking, so you get the spark notes version today.

The majority of my talk focused around who she is as our mother, and more importantly olowwhat that means to us as individuals. I think there’s often some confusion surrounding Our Lady that’s born out of misunderstanding and half-heard truths. It seems strange from an outside perspective that we put so much emphasis on her, and often looks as though we’ve raised her to the level of a divinity. But that’s not the case. We honor Mary for the way God worked through her, but we don’t worship her. Worship is reserved for God alone because He is the only one worthy of it. Worship, in fact, comes from an old English word which literally means “to acknowledge worth” — worth that He alone holds. We don’t believe Mary has the power to save us, because only God can do that. But we honor her because God honored her first. What greater honor could there be than to be asked by God to be His mother? What greater honor is there than to be invited into His plan for salvation — a plan that didn’t need us in order to be fulfilled? The other thing to remember is that God’s glory is never diminished when we admire or honor the things He’s created. It’s like when we admire a beautiful painting or piece of music; we aren’t glorifying the canvas or the guitar but the one who created the art. When we admire Mary, God’s most beautiful creature, we give glory to the one who created her.

There are two specific scripture passages that help us understand her role in our lives, and both come from John’s Gospel. The first is the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1-12), which shows us her relationship with Jesus and her care for those around her. She noticed the wine had run out at the wedding and, even though it was a small problem in the grand scheme of things, she cared enough for the couple to bring their need to the Lord. Not only that, but once she had offered Him their request, she stepped back and pointed to Jesus saying “do whatever He tells you.” Because He loves her as His mother, He honored her simple request even though it would launch Him into the public light.

pieta-jasonThe second is the Crucifixion (John 19:26-27), and reminds us how Jesus gave her to each of us to be our mother. He found the strength even as He was in unspeakable pain to say to John “behold your mother.” Through His sacrifice on the cross we became children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ; in this way we share His mother. John stands in for all of us who are disciples of the Lord, and we should hear Jesus’ words from the cross as words to us, “children, behold your mother.”

So what now? What do we do with this, and why does it matter that she’s been given to us as our mother? We follow John’s example and take her into our home. We follow God’s example and entrust ourselves in our weakness to her care, knowing she cares for us and is not afraid to bring our needs to the Lord the way she did for the couple at Cana. We can invite her into our life, into our fears and sufferings and joys. She stands with us in our sorrows at the foot of the cross. When we invite her into our lives, she can know how to pray for us better. That’s what a mother should do, after all: pray for her children and point them always back to the Lord. Mary knows Jesus deeply and knows best how to pray for each and every one of us. And, because He loves her so dearly as His beloved mother, the Lord is ready and willing to answer her requests on our behalf.

maryjesus

All that to say she is our mother who cares for each of us individually and is waiting for us to ask her to pray for us. We can never honor or love her more than the Lord already does, and she will always point us back to Christ in everything telling us gently, “do whatever He tells you.”

Our Lady of Wisdom, pray for us!

The School of the New Evangelization

Once our Mission Team Training ended, we moved all of our belongings over to the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota for a week-long conference called the School of the New Evangelization (SNE). This conference pulled together speakers and students from all over the U.S. SNE is built around helping us learn and practice the skills we need this year to be rooted in prayer and focused on reaching new students on campus.


This was my first time, and it was the largest SNE so far with over 400 college students in attendance. Many of the students came from schools with SPO chapters (such as The Ohio State University, the University of Minnesota, etc.) but quite a few came from schools which don’t have SPO staff yet.
28961071565_5db9491843_zEach day of the conference had morning prayer, daily mass, and personal prayer time to help us grow in our prayer life and prepare us for the school year. We spent the majority of the day in various talks divided into three tracks: mission, community, and holiness.

I jumped around between many of the sessions, and often continued discussing the ideas with new friends during our meal times.

28309863683_b9189b7871_zI was thrilled to finally meet the students from Texas State University during SNE, and by the end of the week I was finally starting to remember all their names and faces. I spent a few of my free afternoons getting to know the women I’d be living with, and it was exciting to finally know a little bit of the community I would be jumping into in just a few short days.

It was an exhausting week coming right from a week of training, but I learned a lot, got to know my fellow missionaries and many of the students pretty well. I took full advantage of our free time to take some much needed naps, spend time with the students, and participate in the SPOlympics. We finished out the week with an unbelievable talent show, and parted ways to travel to our placements.

28224922773_a3b23467b8_z
Adoration on one of the first nights of SNE
28786170101_2463beb476_z
The first annual SPOlympics
28830719996_2101b70a05_z-2
SPOlympic athletes in action
28856650662_e49545035d_z
Some of the incredible musicians from the Talent Show
28201664563_b0ed9799a9_z
All of the students and mission leaders from SNE