Surrender: A Reflection on My SLS 20 Experience

Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they may also be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

John 17:24

Made for Mission
In this Bible verse, Jesus prays that we can be with Him. He wants everyone to witness His glory. He wants all of us to give ourselves to Him without reserve and to share the Gospel with others because we’re all part of the Body of Christ.

In other words, we were made for mission.

Surrender
Surrender

Equipped for Mission
Going to SLS 20 in Phoenix, Arizona reminded me that God created us for community. Mankind is not meant to be alone, so we do life together. We’re meant to share our very lives with one another and evangelize to others with the gift of ourselves in friendship. Because of this, we have to be “all in” when we become missionary disciples of Christ.

At SLS, I attended Mass every day with 8,000 Catholic college students, and prayed in Adoration almost every day. I heard from the world’s leading Catholic speakers, like Fr. Mike Schmitz, Sr. Bethany Madonna, Dr. Edward Sri, Emily Wilson, Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, and so many more. A common thread among their talks included God’s unfathomable love for all of His children. We have to reach those who don’t know God and invite them into a relationship with Him, and we must do so with urgency. We’re the ones that will bring the lost back to Christ, and we take our mission seriously as we share in the Great Commission. After hearing talks about evangelical incarnation, moral authority, vocations, and how God longs for his people, thousands of Catholic college students and I are now equipped to make disciples of all nations.

Showing up Anyway
When I first created this blog, I promised to share all aspects of my faith journey. I want to use Radiant with Joy to share the highs and the lows of growing in holiness and striving for Sainthood. If I don’t do this, then I compromise the mission of my blog, which is to show you that you don’t have to be perfect to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. For this reason, I share an unfortunate part of my SLS experience.

Despite having a missionary heart and the knowledge that I’ve gained from SLS, I still don’t feel qualified to embark on the mission that I was made for. I make invitations, I practice intercessory prayer daily, and I talk with friends about Jesus. Nothing I do seems to work. I feel like I’m the exception to SLS’s tagline, “You were made for mission,” and yet I went to the conference anyway, hoping that something would change.

On the last day of the conference, between the final keynote speakers and our closing Mass, I sat among my friends from Rock Catholic in a sea of my peers who will set the world on fire. I sat there and cried because I knew that I couldn’t do any of the things that the speakers had told me to do. It doesn’t matter how badly I wanted to change the world because I feel like I can’t.

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Learning to Surrender
I don’t know if I’ll ever win, build, and send even one soul for Christ, but I can still surrender myself to Him. During the New Year’s Eve party at SLS, we were surprised with Eucharistic Adoration. Shortly after midnight, priests and seminarians brought the Blessed Sacrament to us and we all fell to our knees while Matt Maher played a few praise and worship songs. We began the decade with our Savior. On January 1st, I completed the 33 Days to Morning Glory Marian Consecration, and I’m excited that my Blessed Mother will perfect my prayers and distribute them with generosity that can never be outdone. Later that night, everyone gathered for Eucharistic Adoration, where I continued to surrender myself to Christ. Kneeling with my hands open, I allowed Him to give me His grace to follow Him closely and do His will for me.

Coming Home Changed
Although the purpose of SLS is to send its attendees on mission so that they can bring other students and young adults to Christ and then send them on mission, I came home from SLS with a soul surrendered to God. I encountered Him so deeply through my Marian Consecration and through Eucharistic Adoration, and I’m dedicated to spending more time with God in prayer and doing His will as closely as I possibly can. I came home from SLS with a much improved prayer life, and I’m excited to continue praying the Rosary daily, reading and reflecting on the Mass readings, and conversing with God by bringing Him praises and intentions. I came home from SLS with some much needed serenity, knowing that whatever God’s plan is for me and whatever my mission will look like, I’m in His hands.

I still feel lost as I wonder what my mission is, but now I can rest in the surrender of being a beloved daughter of God and a closer disciple of Jesus.

Stay radiant!

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Made for Mission

Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

Matthew 28:19-20

Make Disciples of All Nations
The last verses of the Gospel of Matthew are referred to as the Great Commission. In this passage, Jesus commands not only the eleven disciples who went with Him to Galilee to witness His Ascension, but all of His disciples, everyone who believes in Him, to teach everyone about Him. We’re called to make disciples of all nations and help everyone we encounter to fall more deeply in love with God. We’re called to bring as many people to the Church as we can and to bring as many souls to Heaven with us as possible. But how do we do this?

Made for Mission
Made for Mission

SLS 20
At SLS 20, a conference hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), college students and young adults will learn how to live the Great Commission and be excellent missionary disciples. This five-day conference held in Phoenix, Arizona from December 30th to January 3rd will inspire and equip thousands of young Catholics through the Sacraments, small group discussions, and the world’s leading Catholic speakers. The tagline of SLS 20 is “You were made for mission,” which reminds us that Christ calls each and every one of us to contribute to the Great Commission. I’m excited to attend this immensely valuable conference this year.

SLS 20 equips young Catholics to share the Gospel no matter where they are in life. Whether you’re still in college or starting your first job, whether your prayer life is just beginning or if it’s thriving, whether you’re leading your first Bible study or you’re a missionary, you’re contributing to the Great Commission and bringing it one step closer to fruition.

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Why I’m Going
My chapter as a college student will be over in May, and thanks to the grace of God, my faith has strengthened throughout my college years. I’m blessed that I’ll graduate as a better disciple than I was when I began college. I’m still not sure of God’s plan for my life after graduation. I’ve been praying and searching for jobs and although I’m feeling discouraged at the moment, I know that He has me in His hands. Regardless of where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing after I graduate, I know that I’ll be able to share the Gospel and live the Great Commission because SLS 20 will teach me how.

Stay radiant!

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The Season of Spiritual Giving

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed and what the shepherds said to them.

Luke 2:16-18

The Gift of Jesus
In my Christmas Eve blog post, I wrote about how the greatest gift that Jesus gives to us is Himself. Naturally, the greatest gift that we can give each other is Jesus. That’s actually why we exchange gifts on Christmas, to remind each other of the gift of Jesus. The material gifts that we give each other on Christmas are nice and thoughtful, but the best gifts are the ones that bring others closer to Jesus.

The Season of Spiritual Giving
The Season of Spiritual Giving

Giving Prayers
As a “broke college student,” I can’t always afford to give elaborate gifts, but I know that I can always give someone the gift of prayers. Instead of exchanging gifts with my godparents this year, I gave them a spiritual bouquet of different ways that I’ll be praying for them and their intentions. I’ve grown to love intercessory prayer this year, and giving the gift of prayers to my loved ones is a great way to practice this. As part of my Christmas gifts to my family, friends, and the holy men and women in my life, I’m offering Rosaries, Masses, holy hours, and more for them and their intentions.

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Sharing the Greatest Gift
Even if you don’t see the fruits of your prayers, and whether you are thanked or not for your prayers, they won’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. Pray with expectant faith that your prayers will be answered, and ask our Blessed Mother to perfect your prayers as you approach Jesus Christ. In this season of giving, don’t forget to offer prayers for your loved ones.

We’ve spent Advent preparing our hearts, our homes, and our prayer lives for Jesus Christ’s coming. Now that He’s here, share Him joyfully with everyone around you.

Have a blessed Christmas Day!

Stay radiant!

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Away in a Manger

And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Luke 2:7

The Meaning of the Manger
We’re familiar with the Nativity story. Mary and Joseph found no room in the inn. She gave birth to the infant Jesus in a stable. The angels sang “Glory to God in the highest.” Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes and placed Him in a manger, but what is a manger? Why is it important to know that this is where the infant Jesus slept? It seems like such a little detail in the Nativity story, but it’s so meaningful when we reflect on it.

Jesus was placed in a manger when he was born. The infant Jesus slept in a box that animals ate from. A manger that contained food for donkeys and oxen also held the Bread of Life. “Manger” means “to eat” in French. I don’t think the infant Jesus had a manger instead of a crib by chance. His manger foreshadowed that someday, His millions of followers would eat His Body and drink His Blood. Over 2,000 years after His birth, the Church is still united in the Eucharist. We do so in memory of Him, but it’s not a symbol. We receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the humble form of bread and wine. Our Savior, the King of Israel, the Son of God came to earth in the humble form of an infant.

Away in a Manger
Away in a Manger

Eating His Body
In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells his disciples “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (John 6:54-55). Read that again and let it sink in. Jesus wants us to eat His body and drink His blood because He Himself is true food and true drink. Although Jesus is known for teaching in parables, in this case, He is not speaking allegorically. If we desire eternal life, the Eucharist is the only way to gain it. Jesus uses the word “abide” frequently in the Gospel of John. When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, He abides in us and we abide in Him. We’re united to Jesus and to each other as one body.

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The Greatest Gift
Not just during Christmas, the “season of giving,” but every day, Jesus gives us the greatest gift we can ask for. Jesus Christ gives His whole self, His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, His true presence to us in the Eucharist. When we have the gift of communion with Jesus Christ, what more could we ask for? When you hear the Nativity story or the Christmas carol “Away in a Manger” this Christmas, remember how our Savior came to earth with the humility of an infant and how He still gives his whole self to us in the humble form of the Eucharist.

Stay radiant!

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4th Sunday of Advent

Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 1:7

I’m excited that Christmas is almost here, but for the first time ever, I’m sad that Advent is almost over. For me, this has been the most fruitful Advent so far. With the St. Andrew Christmas Novena and the 33 Days to Morning Glory Marian Consecration, I’ve grown so much in prayer. Lately, the highlight of my day has been my time in prayer. Praying the St. Andrew Christmas Novena as soon as I wake up lets me begin my day by lifting my mind and heart to God. As I return to prayer later in the day, I enjoy my time with Jesus and Mary as I read 33 Days to Morning Glory and a little Advent devotional book before praying my rosary. I’m grateful that God blessed me with the grace to grow in prayer because it brought me so much peace this Advent.

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The fourth and last Advent candle represents peace. It’s is a common theme of Advent, considering that Christ’s coming grants us peace. Several Christmas songs contain lyrics about peace, and when the angels appear to the shepherds, they sing “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). Whether we’re aware of it or not, our hearts are always yearning and thirsting for God. He alone gives the peace that our restless hearts need. We might try to find peace and fill the God-sized hole in our hearts with other material things, but they’ll never work. No amount of money, clothes, food, relationships, or vacations will ever give us the peace that God offers. When we turn to him, genuinely seeking to be his, he embraces us in his love and gives us the peace that we desire. As long as we abide in him, he gives us his grace and peace that we as his children long for.

Looking back on this Advent, I should have been more stressed out. My anxiety levels should have been through the roof because I was preparing for and taking my final exams, I presented a quartet that I choreographed in the Fall Concert, I made the difficult decision to not go to graduate school, I’m looking for a job for after graduation, and I still have Christmas presents to make and buy even though I’m the definition of a broke college student. Despite all of this, I’ve been unusually calm. I truly felt the peace of God throughout this hectic December, and I’m thankful for that gift. For I think the first time in my life, I’ve been enjoying Advent as I looked forward to not only Christmas Day, but also completing the St. Andrew Christmas Novena, my Marian Consecration, and ultimately, when I meet Jesus Christ in Heaven. All of this is possible because I depended on God the whole time and allowed his peace to flood my life.

Stay radiant!

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Trusting His Mercy

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

The Word I Needed to Hear
Trust… what a beautiful word.

I didn’t think to associate it with Confession until I went to Confession recently. Fr. Adam kept repeating this little word, encouraging me to trust that I can turn to God in the sacrament of Confession. Trust that God is merciful, and I can always trust in His mercy. Through Fr. Adam, God told me the word that I didn’t know I needed to hear.

Trusting His Mercy
Trusting His Mercy

Trust, not Courage
Sometimes I grow afraid of going to Confession or I put off doing so because I have trouble trusting in God’s mercy. As beautiful as I know it is, I hesitate to receive His mercy. Maybe I convince myself that it isn’t for me, or I have to earn it somehow, but this isn’t the case! All I have to do is trust that my Heavenly Father is ready to embrace me in His love and mercy.

I used to think I needed courage to ask for forgiveness. I thought it was courage that would help me walk into the confessional, confess my sins, and receive God’s mercy. Concerning Confession, God doesn’t want us to be courageous warriors. Approaching Confession courageously keeps matters in our own hands. Trusting in God takes away the control that we try to grasp and allows us to lean on him. He wants us to trust Him like children trust their loving father. This won’t happen if we try to be self-sufficient.

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He’s Waiting for You
Answer His call to trust in him during this Advent season. Advent is a perfect time to go to Confession because it’s the season of preparing ourselves for Christ’s coming. God is waiting for you to trust Him just a little more. He’s waiting to pour out His mercy for you. Whatever is holding you back from the beautiful sacrament of Confession, let that go so you can cling to your trust in God with both hands.

Stay radiant!

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3rd Sunday of Advent

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.

James 5:7

On Gaudete Sunday, we take a break from purple and put on rose. We light the third candle in our Advent wreath with joy, knowing that Advent is halfway over. Christmas will be here before we know it! The third candle represents joy, and “Gaudete” means joy. Remembering that Jesus Christ is on his way fills us with joy today as we continue to anticipate his coming.

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The second reading today reminds us to wait patiently for Christ’s coming. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and grow anxious as we anticipate something. Knowing that Christmas is just around the corner is exciting, and wrapping presents, baking, and decorating brings us joy as we prepare for it. I recently spent an afternoon making Christmas wreaths with my mom and my aunt. As I continue to pray the St. Anthony Christmas Novena, and I continue to complete the 33 Days to Morning Glory Marian Consecration, I grow more joyful as I prepare my heart for Christ. Amidst this joy, we also stay patient. We wait patiently for December 25, a date that we already know, when we celebrate the Nativity, but only God knows when Christ will come again. We remain joyful as we prepare for this, and we stay patient, remembering that Christ will come according to God’s perfect timing.

Finals are over and I’m home for Christmas now! Praise God for a great semester. I can’t believe my next semester will be my last of undergrad, but for now I’ll enjoy this winter break. My prayer this winter is to continually place my trust in God, especially about the future, and I pray that you will do the same wherever you are in life.

Stay radiant!

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2nd Sunday of Advent

It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: “A voice crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'”

Matthew 3:3

When you give God an inch, he will surely take a mile. I’m amazed by how much I’ve grown in prayer during the first week of Advent. I’ve been praying the St. Andrew Christmas Novena, and I’ve been working on my Marian Consecration by reading 33 Days to Morning Glory every evening. I continuously stop and pray throughout the day, offering up little prayers of thanksgiving and asking God for help when I’m feeling down or working on something difficult. During the first week of Advent, I began to prepare my heart, and now I’ll continue and grow deeper in my preparation during the second week.

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In today’s Gospel we hear about John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin. He dedicated his life to, of course, baptizing others, but by doing so, he helped others prepare for the coming of their Savior. He did this with urgency, without wasting time. Likewise, we should prepare ourselves and help others prepare for Christ’s coming. Instead of keeping Christ to ourselves, we share him and his good news with those around us, helping them to draw closer to him. The second Advent candle symbolizes faith. It reminds us to ignite our faith in Christ’s coming. Just as one candle’s flame can light another’s we can easily share our faith with others. We can share the light of Christ with others and make this world a brighter place.

I had keep this blog post short because I’m currently preparing for finals week. Consequently, I’ll take a short break from writing, but I’ll be back in time for the third week of Advent!

Stay radiant!

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You Only Burn Yourself: Struggling to let go of Anger

In your anger, do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.

Ephesians 4:26

When Anger Consumes Me
I find myself holding onto anger more often than I care to admit. Everyone gets irritated and upset from time to time, but unfortunately, I dwell on those negative emotions for longer than I should. When someone upsets me, it’s hard for me to stop thinking about it. Although I might not show it, I hold onto my anger and sometimes I let it consume me. Sometimes I grow angry or impatient with someone for no reason, or I get cynical or jealous of someone over the littlest thing. I eventually come to my senses, turning to God in prayer and asking Him to soften my heart. This always helps and brings me peace, but I wish I never allowed my heart to be so hard in the first place.

You Only Burn Yourself
You Only Burn Yourself

Why We Shouldn’t Hold on to Anger
When I’m trying to let go of my anger, I think of this analogy: Holding onto anger is like holding a hot coal. They longer you hold onto it, the more you get burned. You might hold that coal wishing someone else would get hurt or feel the pain, but you only burn yourself. Being angry does so much damage to ourselves. When we let our hearts harden with anger, we grow bitter as we allow ourselves to retreat into the darkness. In this state, it’s easy to turn away from God, give into temptation, and sin. Because we’re human, it’s okay to feel angry, but we cannot let our anger consume us. We have to be careful to not let our anger harden our hearts and lead us to sin.

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Letting Go and Holding onto God
Especially during Advent, we strive to exit the darkness and turn towards the light of Jesus Christ. We actively prepare our hearts with excitement for Christ’s coming. Part of this involves foregoing what causes us to turn away from Christ. As we prepare our hearts for Him, we let go of what leads us into darkness so that we can stay in His light.

If you’re like me and you struggle to let go of your anger, you’re not alone. Join me in praying for softer hearts so that we can forget when we forgive. I ask our Heavenly Father to help us be more optimistic and forget our negativity. With a little more patience and kindness, we can forget about the mistakes and shortcomings of ourselves and others and reflect on the good. If we can let go of our anger quickly, before the sun goes down, we can avoid sin while keep our hearts soft and growing in love for God and for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Stay radiant!

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1st Sunday of Advent

Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.

Matthew 24:42

I used to think of Advent as just the liturgical season before Christmas. I would wish Advent away and anticipate Christmas day. Now I understand Advent as not just a period of waiting, but of preparation. As I reflect on Advent, I think of Mary preparing for the birth of Jesus Christ. During this time, I think of how I can prepare for the second coming of our Savior.

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On the first Sunday of Advent, we light the first purple candle, which represents hope. The first candle is often called the prophecy candle, as we reflect on how Jesus’ birth was prophecised throughout the Old Testament. Jesus Christ is the most prophecised person throughout all of history. He was mentioned in the Old Testament hundreds of times as prophets promised the coming of a Savior. The first week of Advent recognizes these prophecies and notes that they’re going to be fulfilled.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus encourages his apostles to stay awake. He tells them that no one will know the day or the hour when Jesus will come again. We must constantly prepare ourselves and stay ready for him. As Advent begins, think of ways to prepare your heart for Christ’s coming. Plan ways to grow in prayer. Get lost in God’s word by reading the Bible more often. Give of yourself through almsgiving or by spending extra time with loved ones. Embrace the sacraments more often by experiencing the Lord’s goodness in Confession and through the Eucharist. In all things, stay awake and prepare the way of the Lord as we wait in hope for him during this Advent.

Stay radiant!

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