A Call to Happiness and Holiness

**Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Roncalli Alumnus Tomerot Lambert.

**In honor of national vocations awareness week please enjoy Tomerot’s vocation story and continue to pray for him has he continues his discernment.

As some of you know, I am adopted. I was born in Ethiopia. Where? I couldn’t say. I lived on the streets with my mother until the age of 5, then taken to an orphanage located in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. I lived in the orphanage until I was seven, when my brother and I were adopted by our foster father.

We arrived in America, May of 2004. Like good Catholic parents, the first thing my parents did was have us baptized. As we all know, baptism is special for everyone, but I would like to point out how mine was especially unique. After I was baptized, my God-parents gave me a cross, and when I looked at it something passed over my face. The priest celebrating the baptism saw me, gasped, and touched my parents saying, “This kid is going to be a priest . . . .”  My mother always told me this story as I was growing up and a part of me always suspected it wasn’t true. I’m sure you probably doubt if this is true as well, but I would like to think that priests are honest people. I did have interest in becoming a priest, but I never saw myself being a diocesan priest. Though I was very caught up in the American lifestyle of sports, family vacations, and hanging out with friends, I wanted to forsake my comfortable lifestyle and help those in poorer countries. Later on I would learn that you can be both a priest and a missionary, but because I only interacted with diocesan priests, I did not know this until much later.

I’ve wanted to be a missionary ever since I was a kid. Every time I saw a starving kid on a poster, TV or in movies, I would run to my room and weep. I would cry out and ask God, why? Why do you allow this suffering? Why am I here, living a carefree and comfortable life? What makes me any better than them? I would do anything to switch my life with those kids. I felt I did not deserve to be where I was.

I realized during my high school years that we look at God and ask, “Where are you? What are you doing?” And He looks at us and says, “What are you doing? Where are you going?” I then started to see that I had a purpose. My adoption was not chance, it was designed. But I would question God, not His existence, but His purpose. My problem with Him was how much He interacted with us in our daily lives. This was a big question for me, as I did not have a good theological understanding at the time.

In the end of my junior year my relationship with God became more of a dialogue. Every Monday in our school chapel before lunch, certain students would come in and pray a decade of the Rosary. After we were done praying, my friend, Cullen Hilliker, who today is my best friend, asked me if I wanted to participate in a faith group called Be Not Afraid (BNA). He told me how they gather once a week to pray and share their personal faith. At first I was hesitant, because I did not know him or the people that were in BNA, but I went anyways. After the first time there I just kept coming back. The friends I made in that group have stuck with me and are true friends. They were the ones who taught me different ways to pray. They helped me memorize the Divine Mercy and the Rosary. They helped me understand how to pray lectio divina, liturgy of the hours, and bible sharing. They taught me that prayer is a dialogue, like two best friends who talk and listen to each other. This was the starting point of Christian maturity for me.

Another person who helped me in my faith was Mr. Olson, my high school principal. He helped me to not be afraid of what I believe. His teachings in his Senior Theology class still influence me today. In Senior Theology he would eloquently unite the supernatural with the natural. He had the ability to bring the abstract into the tangible. One thing he taught me was, “You cannot do everything, but you can do something.” It is such a simple idea, but don’t we sometimes feel that to do everything is the only thing? He helped me see that the little things in life matter, like holding the door for someone, smiling, treating your parents with respect, being diligent in homework, being obedient under authority, etc. This lesson also inspired me to be a missionary. I also started to think more about the priesthood, but I was still torn between choosing the priesthood and a missionary life.

My dad, who has been a big inspiration in my life, helped me to see that I can be both a missionary and a priest. My dad started an organization called ASAC (Americans Serving African Children). He would have special fundraisers throughout the year and gather money, clothes, toys and school supplies that had been collected, and have them shipped to different orphanages in Africa. It moved me how my dad, as busy as he is, had time to do this. This was another reason I wanted to be a missionary and he knew that. My dad looked for a way that he could help me out. He started to talk to one of the retired priests at Holy Family Memorial Hospital and asked about any religious order that prepares you for missionary life and priesthood. The priest told him about the SVD (Society of Divine Word) and their charism. My dad looked up the order and found the school online. I was really touched that he went so far for me. He asked me if I wanted to consider it, and I said I’d pray about it.

After serious discernment, I told my dad, “yes.” My dad contacted Len Uhal, the vocation director from the college, and after two weeks we got a reply, encouraging me to join and informing me of the criteria for applying to the school. First, he would have to come over and visit. Second, I would be given the option to do a “Come and See” visit. Lastly, I would have to apply.

When Len Uhal came to our house we had the opportunity to talk. One thing I will never forget is the insight he gave me on discernment. He told me that discernment, on a basic level, is just making choices, but in a Christian context it is so much more. In the Christian context it is not only making choices, but specifically making a choice between two goods and inviting God to help you choose which is best for you. I realized that vocation and discernment go hand in hand. Truly, vocation is all about happiness and discernment is choosing which vocation will make you truly happy.

Already a year has gone by in the seminary life and there is no doubt in my mind that I am in the right place. That doesn’t mean I don’t have difficult moments, but it’s in those difficult moments that something great is at work.

If you truly want to know where I am in my spiritual life, I recommend you read about St. Teresa of Calcutta. If you were to ask my closest friends who my favorite saint is, they would tell you without missing a beat, that it is St.Teresa of Calcutta. Rightly so, as she is one of the greatest contemporary saints whom I hold dear to my heart. I’m not saying I’m like her, but I do want to follow her example and become more like her, a saint who exemplifies the missionary spirit to spread the good news. “Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”

-Mother Teresa

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It’s the Year of Mercy…and Here’s Why You Should Care

Jesus is not a cartoon.

I know that is an odd way to start a blog…or even a general conversation, but I think it is necessary to get this ball rolling. Too often we as a culture have reduced Jesus to being just that…a cartoon. We see it in our Religious Education text books, our cheesy church videos, and even in our minds when we think about who Jesus is. But when we take a moment to, you know, read the Gospels, we get a much different view of Jesus than what we are often presented with.

Here is a fact that we need to keep in mind; Jesus was crucified. This seems painfully obvious and even a borderline pandering comment to make but think about it, he was put to death in a very specific way for a very specific reason- he was radical. He pushed the boundaries. He defied the authorities of his time with the very message he preached. Now this blog could go on and on about the various ways that Jesus rattled the cage of the authorities, but I would like to focus on only one theme- forgiveness.

Forgiveness is like eating healthy…a lot of probably think we are doing a good job, but we’re probably not (or maybe that’s just me). You see, forgiveness is essential to our history, especially salvation history. Pope Francis speaks to this in his Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy “Misericordiae Vultus” when he says, “Mercy renders God’s history with Israel a history of salvation.” (Misericordiae Vultus Para. 7) This simply means that the history of God and his people is driven by mercy. Since the very beginning of Scripture, God promised that he would send us a savior to save us from the very sin that we committed (Gen. 3:15). After that time, God never stopped pursuing His people. He sent them prophets, judges, and kings, all to proclaim His undying covenant of love and mercy with them.

This EPIC history of God chasing His beloved, the ups and downs, the war and peace, all of it comes to the climax of God Himself, taking on our fragile flesh in the Incarnation. Jesus Christ, our Savior Incarnate, walks among those whom He loves so much, to bring us back into communion with our Father, by teaching about who He is, and ultimately offering Himself in atonement for our sins. Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.

Jesus, during His short time here on earth, lived and preached a radical forgiveness that He was manifesting before our very eyes. I’ll let Pope Francis explain this one:

“This love has now been made visible and tangible in Jesus’ entire life. His person is nothing but love, a love given gratuitously. The relationships he forms with the people who approach him manifest something entirely unique and unrepeatable. The signs he works, especially in favour of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the sick, and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy. Everything in him speaks of mercy. Nothing in him is devoid of compassion.” Misericordiae Vultus Para. 8

Now, I went on earlier about not liking the cartoon Jesus because I believe that it detracts from who Jesus really was. He was (and is) first and foremost God incarnate, but he is also our Savior who calls us into a relationship with Himself. We can know so many facts about the Church and theology, and maybe even Jesus Himself, but have we actually met Him? Do we speak with Him? Do we really love him? Because if we do, we need to start embracing the fact that He calls us to extend the same radical mercy that God has shown us since the very beginning. We are called to show mercy so radical, that it may even lead us to our own cross.

This means we have to forgive one another, especially the people who we cannot stand. There is so much tension in our world today…and I would venture to say that that is a major reason that Pope Francis has called for this Year of Mercy. We need to take up this call of mercy because our beautiful, fragile home is being threatened by us, her stewards. Everything we love and hold dear lays on the edge of destruction. And what are some of the solutions we hear? Build walls. Kick people out. Don’t let them in. Arm ourselves. Kill each other on the battlefield or in the womb to ensure our selfish comfort. Pope Francis, the saints, the bishops, and even Jesus have a different solution…embrace one another. Share the burden. Challenge one another. Call each other out for our failings and shortcomings. Pray with and for one another. Show radical, and unconditional love and mercy.

Let’s embrace this Year of Mercy by embracing one another, not “tolerating” one another. We can no longer settle for this “cartoon” faith and cartoon Jesus. It is not about feeling good. It is about action. Jesus is calling us on a terribly difficult mission of love and mercy, one that may even lead to death just as it did for him. Go to Reconciliation and receive God’s mercy, then go and extend that same mercy to someone else and watch this world transform.

 

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam,

 

Taylor

5 Reasons Why I Love Being Catholic

**Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by a senior here at Roncalli- Cullen Hilliker.

Let me briefly introduce myself.  My name is Cullen Hilliker and I am a senior at Roncalli High School located in Manitowoc.  I have been involved in a lot, but my faith is what has made me who I am today.  My Catholic journey has taken me to places I never imagined possible, and brought me to people I never imagined existed.  There are literally millions of reasons why being Catholic is amazing and why I love it so much, however, I have slimmed it down into a list of just five.

  1. Sacraments: Visible Signs to Help Me Learn Why I Need to Love My Neighbor

Eucharist_close_up

The seven sacraments are a fundamental part of the Catholic faith, and they are Christ’s very own gift that provide us with grace and charity.  With that being said, they obviously have a significant purpose, being that they are chosen instruments of God’s power.   According to Webster’s Dictionary, the exact definition of a sacrament is that it is “an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.”  This definition is so vague, yet precise at the same time.  Vague in the sense that there is a limitless amount of grace to receive, but yet precise because Christ is the only one who can offer this to us.

Personally, I have now received four of these mysterious sacraments.  However, I can allege that they are some of the most powerful and exclusive experiences in my life.  Given the fact that I was months old when I was baptized, baptism was arguably my most important sacrament.  This argument can be made solely on the fact that without it, I would not have been able to receive any other sacraments.  Not only did it open the doors to my faith journey, but it allowed it to flourish.  This led me into the two most commonly received sacraments, Eucharist and Reconciliation.  The fact that we are able to literally receive Jesus in the Eucharist is nearly unfathomable.  And even further that we can be saved from our struggles and sins is incredible.  My confirmation was my most recent sacrament received, yet probably my most powerful.  Being sealed in my Catholic faith by the Holy Spirit is just overwhelming.  Now it is time to use that sacrament in my ongoing discernment of two others – Holy Orders or Matrimony.

          2. Papacy & the Saints: Learning From Others’ Mistakes Makes Life a Little Easier

Pope Francis gives his thumb up as he leaves at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

The Pope

Having a leader or role model in anything is essential.  For as long as I can remember, I have been told to pick somebody to look up to, and follow them.  This is why being Catholic is perfect because there are so many opportunities for Catholics to relate to a role model.  First of all, we have a Pope.  With an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics living in the world, it would be nearly impossible to stay united as one without a leader.  Whether it is overseeing bishops and cardinals, or making sure the Church stays faithful to the teaching of Christ, the Pope plays a crucial role in leading and maintaining Catholicism.

The Saints

With thousands of saints to admire, it is almost impossible to not find at least one to form a relationship with.  There is a patron saint of almost everything; one for beekeepers, one for translators, and everywhere imbetween.  This makes it even easier to grow closer to God because we are able to relate to a saint.  After we learn about saints, and how they lived their lives, we are able to mold and model our lives after theirs.  Not only are they good role models, but they are there to help us.  We have the power to pray for the intercession of saints, and they have the power to intercede on our behalf.  

Personally, praying to saints has become a part of my daily life.  In school, at least five times a day we ask the three patrons of our school to pray for us.  When I lose something, I say a prayer to St. Anthony and every day before I run, I pray to St. Sebastian so I can perform to the best of my ability and avoid injury.  Time and time again, Joseph has served as a moral example for me which is why I chose him as my Confirmation Saint.  St. Francis has had a huge impact in my life just through his Franciscan order, which has provided for my education since I was three.  St. John Paul II inspired me to go on a pilgrimage to Poland, changing my life forever.

           3.Mary: I Get to Have Two Mothers, and One is the Queen of the Universe

Our_lady_poland

Catholics do not worship Mary, we revere her.  Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ, the one who saved the world from sin.  Biologically speaking, Jesus inherited characteristics from Mary via chromosomes in the blood.  This means that Mary shares the same blood as Jesus Christ.  This fact by itself is mind blowing.  Being the mother of Jesus meant that she had a very specific mission- to bring us to her son.  Like I stated before, Catholics do not worship Mary but we revere her, and Mary serves as a “bridge” from us, to Christ.  This mission has been carried out countless times throughout her many apparitions around the world.

Mary carried this mission out once when she appeared in Guadalupe.  Many people may have heard of, or seen a painting of the image but are not aware of all the miracles that come along with it.  Upon appearing to Juan Diego in 1531, she instructed him to go to the Bishop and tell him to build a church where she appeared.  To make sure the bishop believed him, Mary told Juan Diego to put roses in his tilma and then drop them in front of the Bishop, and when he did so, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on the tilma.  Atheistic scientists and painters traveled to investigate the image and could not explain the phenomena and as a result converted to Catholicism.  To start, the image has maintained a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees, regardless of its surroundings.  This temperature is the perfect temperature of a human body to maintain homeostasis.  Well renowned painters are always able to examine a painting and note the areas of imperfection.  For example, they are able to see where a stroke started and where it ended.  However, not one painter has been able to identify a single mistake or even stroke.  The image is perfect.  After further examination, an image of Juan Diego’s expression upon his first sight of Mary is depicted in one eye, and in the other is the expressions of the bishops and priests.  The stars on Mary’s clothes depict the perfect constellation in the sky of the night she appeared, which has been confirmed by numerous cosmologists.

          Mary appeared in Rome in 352, where she appeared to a man in a dream and told him to build a church.  She said the ground to build the church upon will be covered in snow, and on a hot summer day on August 5, it snowed on Esquiline Hill, establishing grounds for the new church.

In 1858 in the grotto of Massabielle, near Lourdes, France, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared 18 times to Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old peasant girl.  Four years later, the Church devoted a shrine to Mary where millions of pilgrims come to witness each year.  Not one person has left Lourdes with a moral, spiritual, or even physical cure.  A Medical Bureau was even established in 1882 to test the authenticity of the cures and they consistently tested positive with no explanation. About 500 doctors each year including unbelievers and believers take part in the examination of the alleged cures.  

Mary appeared in the sky over the small town of Pontmain in northwestern France to a group of young children for about three hours in January 1871, as the Franco-Prussian war was threatening the area. Her message appeared on a banner under her feet, and encouraged prayer while emphasizing Jesus’ love and concern. The village was spared invasion.  

Mary appeared thirty-three times to a group of children in the winter of 1932-33 at Beauraing in Belgium, in a convent garden near a hawthorn tree. She described herself as “the Immaculate Virgin” and “Mother of God, Queen of Heaven,” while calling for prayer for the conversion of sinners.

Mary appeared to Catherine Labouré, in the chapel of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, at Rue du Bac in Paris, three times in 1830. She showed her the design of the medal of the Immaculate Conception, the “Miraculous Medal.” This medal, when duplicated, helped to renew devotion to Our Lady, both in France and eventually around the world.

I could go on and on listing the endless Miracles and Apparitions of our Lady, but that is not the point.  The point is simple, and it is that Mary has had such an impact on not only the Church and world, but on my life as well.

Our Lady of Czestochowa serves as a perfect example of this.  Painted by St. Luke in the first century on a table-top built from the carpenter Jesus, saying this image has been tried and true would be an understatement.  This image has survived through fire, looters, gunfire, and literally everything; with only a little scratch on the cheek to show it.  One time, a thief struck the image twice with his sword, and before he could strike it again, he instantly fell dead on the ground.  Another time, the entire country of Poland was taken over by Swedes except the monastery where this image was held.  For 40 days the monks were able to hold off the Swedes, eventually driving them out of Poland.  For me, Our Lady of Czestochowa has changed my life.  I went on a pilgrimage to the shrine in Czestochowa, and was struck in awe.  I asked Mary a favor, which she soon granted.  This was important because it taught me that I can go to Mary and ask her anything, knowing she will always be there.  Whether it be big or small, this is something I do almost every day of my life.
       4.Community/Universal: This makes it a lot harder to skip Mass on Sunday

World_youth_day_rio

Catholic- adjective: 1. broad or wide-ranging in tastes, interests, or the like; having sympathies with all; broad-minded; liberal  2.universal in extent; involving all; of interest to all.  3. pertaining to the whole Christian body or church.

Another amazing thing about being Catholic is that I can do it almost anywhere I want.  For example, my home Parish is in Two Rivers, but if I were to go on vacation to Slovakia, I could attend a Mass there which would be identical to the one at home (given the obvious language difference).  There is this sense of unity that all Catholics share, which is so unique to our faith.  This uniqueness is rooted in the Papacy because it is the task of the Pope and Bishops, the head leaders of the Church, to keep the rest of us on the same page.  History can attest to the fact that this sense of universality may not have always been a good thing, but without it, many things in today’s world would not be the same because of the impact our Church has had on the community.

Not only is the Church universal in the sense that the same Gospel readings are proclaimed everywhere, it is universal in making the community a better place for all.  This is carried out through scientific inquiry, patronage of the arts, the establishment of thousands of mission hospitals, providing education, and even disaster relief.  You name it, the Church in one way or another has been there.  The Church has developed everyday tools like the Gregorian Calendar, and the ground I stand on and call home was even discovered by Catholic explorers.
         5.Welcomeness, Forgiveness, & Grace: A Fresh Start is Needed Once and Awhile

reconciliation

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19).  

An amazing aspect of the Catholic Church is the sense of welcomeness it offers, and the forgiveness it provides.  Jesus’ life is a perfect example on how the Church can be welcoming.  He urges people to come into his presence, “Come, follow me”; “Let the children come to me”.  More aggressively, he even invites himself into the lives of others “Zacchaeus, I must stay at your house today”. Jesus’ thoughts of welcoming is not a simple greeting, but a genuine, mutual exchange through which He starts a relationship eventually leading to a friendship.

The reason for the Church’s existence today is simply to be active in inviting people into a personal relationship with Christ.  This relationship is not just limited to a spiritual one, but also to a sacramental relationship.  The Church can directly relay God’s grace to us, so our relationship with Christ is allowed to be fruitful, real, and even physical; offered when we receive the Holy Eucharist.  This shows that the Church can never be more gracious to its people than when it is giving them grace.

Now looking at God’s plan of salvation, it often times gets confusing as to why one must be forgiven though the presence of his chosen ones, or conduits of grace.  It would be so much easier and convenient if we could just personally talk to God and acknowledge our sins.  Personally, this is not the same.  I have tried to talk to God about my sins before, but I am not granted the same sense of redemption as I receive after the absolution granted by a priest.  Those who do not participate in this Sacrament do not see the grace that God is offering because they are pleasing themselves to settle for less gracious responses, granted by a fragile conduit; themselves.

This is an exclusive aspect of the Catholic Church because no other faith believes that the Lord can work through his chosen ones, and absolve us of our wrongdoings.  Not only are these chosen conduits able to absolve us, but they can counsel us and help us to not sin again.  Nobody is perfect, but with this unique opportunity at hand, it is a lot easier to grow closer to God.

5 Times Pope Francis Has Called Me Out

The Catholic Church has had hundreds of Popes since the time of Christ Himself, that have helped pass on the Gospel and guide the faithful closer to the heart of Jesus. When one does a basic Church history search they can come across some pretty terrible and pretty awesome things that the Church’s Popes have done over the centuries. Regardless of where you might stand on Church history or the Popes, it would seem foolish for someone to deny the incredible papacy we have witnessed thus far from Pope Francis.

I will never forget the day that Pope Francis was elected; I was visiting the local public high school with fellow youth ministers, carefully watching the live stream of the smoke stack on our phones, when lo and behold…WHITE SMOKE! We immediately left and headed home to watch the coverage of our newly elected Pope. The surge of emotions that I felt when I saw him for the first time, when he smiled and said “Good evening”, and when he bowed after asking for the faithful to pray for him as he embarks on this journey as the Vicar of Christ is virtually unexplainable. Being in the middle of my theological studies, I made a decision to follow his papacy as closely as I could- and boy am I glad I did.

Pope Francis has been at the forefront of the media ever since his election. The obvious platforms are those that are dedicated to Catholic news; but the more surprising ones have been when he was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, and was the first religious figure to be on the cover of Rolling Stone. This coverage of his papacy really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to most people because of the wisdom and brutal truths that Francis emits every day. His words and actions have called me out more times than I can count, but here are five times that Pope Francis’ papacy has made me step back and examine my own faith and outlook on life.

  1. Washing Feet

March 28, 2013 - Roma - This handout photo made by Italian Justice Minister shows Pope Francis washes and kisses the feet of a young offender during the mass of the Lord's Supper during on Holy Thursday at the prison for minors ''Casal del Marmo'' in Rome, Italy, on 28 March 2013..ANSA/ITALIAN JUSTICE MINISTER/AGOSTINO SCUDIERI.+++EDITORIAL USE ONLY - NO SALES+ (Credit Image: © ANSA/ZUMAPRESS.com)

One of the bigger stories early in Pope Francis’ papacy was when he washed the feet of several inmates, Muslims, and women during his first Holy Week as Pope. Now, just as a disclaimer, I am fully aware that Francis is NOT the first Pope to wash feet during Holy Week. This being said however, I believe that because I was paying particular attention to his papacy, along with so many others, I was particularly touched by this gesture.

I was challenged to truly serve as Jesus did. It is nice to do good things for people, but to serve as Christ served means to step outside of a comfortable type of serving, and give of yourself…not just your time. Pope Francis truly followed the call of Jesus to wash the feet of others (Jn. 13:14) even those we might be at odds with at times. When Jesus washes the feet of the disciples, he also washed the feet of Judas, the man who was literally about to betray him (Jn. 13:21). We are called to wash anyone’s feet…anyone’s. Especially those we do not like, or even hate.

  1. Homilies…Like All of Them

PopeFrancis_Homily

Quotes are a popular thing to throw around. Whether that be on one’s twitter bio (even though those are usually pretty shallow), inspirational instagram photos with the mountains in the background, or inserted casually into conversation to help emphasize a point, quotes are popular. So much of what Pope Francis has said has been turned into these quotes because, well, the man speaks the Truth. However, much of what he says is often misquoted or misinterpreted so one should be careful to quote him accurately. The popular quotes aside, Pope Francis has also said some very unpopular things that the secular media loves to ignore.

An incredible source of Francis’ “quoteablility” can be found in his homilies. Pope Francis doesn’t hold back the Truth. For instance, in his very first homily as Pope he spoke about building up the Church and what is necessary to accomplish that task. In this homily, Pope Francis pulled out all of the stops and set the tone for his papacy when he stated, “We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail.” and “When one does not walk, one stalls.” Boom.

This is just one example of how Pope Francis does not take his role as Pope lightly, and how he does not want us to take our identity as Catholics lightly either. Pope Francis is calling for a missionary, mobile, moving Church. A Church that embraces the call to evangelize, a call near and dear to the heart of Pope Francis, and a call that I felt after his challenging words.

  1. Families

PopeFrancis_Family

One of the milestones in Pope Francis’ Papacy is his concern for the family. In fact, he has called for a synod on the family in which will discuss the present needs of the family and how the Church can best respond to those needs. With this in mind, Pope Francis has been regularly preaching and teaching on the family in preparation for this synod. His words and insight on the family has been both refreshing and sobering. He speaks gentle, yet powerful truths on the complicated lives of families.

One instance that was both near and dear to my heart but equally challenging was when Pope Francis spoke on forgiveness. Forgiveness is an essential pillar in the Christian life, but it is often lacking in family life. Many families will hold grudges or never apologize to one another. Pope Francis recognizes the difficulty that these present within families and so he spoke so beautifully on the importance of forgiveness, saying “please”, “thank you”, and “sorry” within one’s family. It so beautifully and powerfully said that I am just going to put the full quotes:

“And they need Jesus’ help to walk beside one another in trust, to accept one another each day, and daily to forgive one another. And this is important! To know how to forgive one another in families because we all make mistakes, all of us! Sometimes we do things which are not good and which harm others. It is important to have the courage to ask for forgiveness when we are at fault in the family.”

“And I want to repeat these three words: please, thank you, sorry. Three essential words! We say please so as not to be forceful in family life: “May I please do this? Would you be happy if I did this?”. We do this with a language that seeks agreement. We say thank you, thank you for love! But be honest with me, how many times do you say thank you to your wife, and you to your husband? How many days go by without uttering this word, thanks! And the last word: sorry. We all make mistakes and on occasion someone gets offended in the marriage, in the family, and sometimes – I say – plates are smashed, harsh words are spoken but please listen to my advice: don’t ever let the sun set without reconciling. Peace is made each day in the family: “Please forgive me”, and then you start over. Please, thank you, sorry! Shall we say them together? [They reply “yes”] Please, thank you and sorry. Let us say these words in our families! To forgive one another each day!”

  1. Confession

PopeFrancis_Confession

Another trademark of Pope Francis’ papacy is his constant preaching and embodiment of mercy. The Catholic Church has and will continue to stress the importance of mercy in the Christian life. Christ preached radical mercy, so it makes perfect sense that His Church would preach and live the same mercy. One of the tangible ways that the Church expresses this supernatural mercy is through the sacrament of confession. In confession, one experiences the abundant mercy of God who wipes away their sins. The healing power of this sacrament brings one back into a more perfect relationship with Christ and all Catholics are called to regularly receive the sacrament.

Now I know that confession can sometimes seem daunting and cause anxiety in many people. I get it. I know that confessing sins is never an easy reality to deal with because of the fear of being judged or looked at differently by the priest. But even those who don’t have a fear of going to confession often feel that they don’t have much to confess so they limit themselves to only a few times a year.

Here is the truth that made me realize I needed to go to confession more…Pope Francis goes to confession EVERY TWO WEEKS. What?!

Someone, after hearing this, might be tempted to think that the pope really sins waaayyyyy too much. However, a priest friend once explained frequent confession to me in a really cool way. He said that frequent confession is like gardening; when one is preparing their garden, they have to pull out the big weeds first, but once those are out they realize that there are smaller weeds lurking in the soil. If they simply ignore those weeds, they will inevitably grow into those same troublesome large weeds. Going to confession is very similar. When someone goes maybe once every few months, they often clear the large sins…as they should! But after closer examination, one can recognize that it is the small things that they do every day or every week that truly create those large sins (weeds) that lead them back to the confessional. So if I can begin to recognize those small sins and confess them sooner I will begin to see those larger sins slowly disappear in my life.

It is because the Pope goes to confession every two weeks I realized that I needed to attend much more. If he has something to confess every two weeks…then so do I.

  1. Marriage

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For those of you who do not know, I am exactly 11 days away from getting married! Hey oh! I cannot even begin to explain how excited I am to marry my best and journey through life together. I am not even going to pretend for a second to know everything about marriage. I have never been married before, I am only 22 years old, and come from a divorced family. But I do know this…marriage is difficult and will take a lot of work.

Unfortunately, I think that knowing that simple truth has been lost in our society. We want to reduce marriage to what we see in a movie or tv shows. We want marriage to have this fairy tale narrative in which nothing bad will ever happen. Those who are married can and constantly attest to the fact that marriage is beautiful, but also quite messy. Pope Francis also understands this reality.

Marriage is fundamentally a sacrament. Not a right. Not a law. A sacrament. Pope Francis has and will continue to uphold this truth. In a lengthy address to pilgrims, he addresses the realities of Christian marriage and throws down some serious, hard to chew on, truth. Here is what he said:

“With trust in God’s faithfulness, everything can be faced responsibly and without fear.  Christian spouses are not naïve; they know life’s problems and temptations.  But they are not afraid to be responsible before God and before society.  They do not run away, they do not hide, they do not shirk the mission of forming a family and bringing children into the world.  But today, Father, it is difficult…  Of course it is difficult!  That is why we need the grace, the grace that comes from the sacrament!  The sacraments are not decorations in life – what a beautiful marriage, what a beautiful ceremony, what a beautiful banquet…But that is not the sacrament of marriage. That is a decoration! Grace is not given to decorate life but rather to make us strong in life, giving us courage to go forwards! And without isolating oneself but always staying together. Christians celebrate the sacrament of marriage because they know they need it!  They need it to stay together and to carry out their mission as parents.  “In joy and in sadness, in sickness and in health”.  This is what the spouses say to one another during the celebration of the sacrament and in their marriage they pray with one another and with the community.  Why?  Because it is helpful to do so?  No!  They do so because they need to, for the long journey they are making together: it is a long journey, not for a brief spell but for an entire life! And they need Jesus’ help to walk beside one another in trust, to accept one another each day, and daily to forgive one another.  And this is important!”

Pope Francis has continually shaken my faith. Not in the negative sense, but rather shaken it awake. He speaks gentle, powerful, and life changing Truth…and that Truth is the person of Jesus Christ. He has brought a new life to the Church that, as I said before, is both refreshing and sobering. His life and words have helped called me out of mediocrity and lukewarm faith, and into a closer relationship with Christ and His Bride, the Church. If you have not followed Pope Francis’ papacy, I challenge you to start, and he’ll challenge you from there.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam,

Taylor

Service Opportunities – July & August 2015

One of the most often overlooked areas of our Catholic faith is the Catholic Social Teaching. Here one can find vast treasures of knowledge and insights into how our Catholic faith should guide us into relationship, not only with God, but also with one another. It is in this relationship with one another that we are called to serve our brothers and sisters all around the world.

This summer is filled with opportunities for Roncalli students and parents to serve in our local community.

In what is left in July, student volunteers are needed to help serve the religious in the community at the annual Serra Club Picnic. The Picnic will be held on Tuesday, July 28th from 4:00-6:30pm at the St. Francis of Assisi Grand Avenue Site.

Coming up in August, student volunteers are needed to help run and supervise children’s games at the Lakeshore Weekend for Kids. This is happening on Saturday, August 1st from 8:30am-12:00pm right by the YMCA.

Also happening in August is the Touched Twice United Clinic. This day-long clinic provides basic services to those who might otherwise not have access to them. This is a huge event and lots of volunteers are needed to help make it a success. Set-up begins on Tuesday, August 4th through Friday, August 7th. *Multiple shifts are available throughout the day.

On Saturday, August 8th the clinic is open to those in need. Volunteers are also needed on that day to help with parking, passing out food, help individuals and families find clothing, and carry items out to their car. We are also looking for “advocates” who help guest to navigate the day and find the services that they need. Training is available on Sunday, August 2nd and Thursday, August 6th for those who plan to help. Both students and their families are encouraged to volunteer for this great service.

Please contact me (tgeiger@roncallijets.net) if you are available to help serve on any of the dates above or would like some more information.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam,

Taylor Geiger

*Contact me for available shifts

So, What’s Up With the Blog?

Hey everyone,

Let me briefly introduce myself to all of you- my name is Taylor Geiger. I am 22, getting married on August 8th, love caffeine, and the Campus Minister at Roncalli High School in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

I created this blog for a few reasons- the first being I want to spread the Gospel. The Gospel truly is the greatest news…ever. So on here I will post thoughts, reflections, and insights on just about anything and everything, all rooted in the Gospel and the Person of Jesus Christ. I am Catholic. Passionately Catholic. So all that I write and post will be in accordance with Church teaching. Why? Because the Church rocks. Literally (Mt 16:18).

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Second- I will use this blog to post about upcoming discipleship and service opportunities for the student body at Roncalli High School.

Third- I want this to be a platform for students, teachers, faculty, alumni, and friends to post their thoughts and testimonies on their experiences of faith, the Church, relationships, cafeteria food, and life.

So, let’s take a journey and take up the mission that Christ Himself gave to all the Baptized (Mt 28:19-20)