Our executive speaker in September 2017 was Teresa Kenney, talking about "Reproductive Health and Your Catholic Faith". Her presentation took place at St. Gerald's Catholic Church in Omaha, NE.
The Season of Giving (And Receiving)
It’s hard to believe Advent is already upon us and Christmas is only a week away! I know we say it every year, but my goodness, this year has sure flown by! As I reflected on the topic I was going to write about in this post, I first thought about all that has happened in my life this year: the good, the bad, and the ups and downs. It took me a while, but I finally realized this time of the year is not about oneself, it’s about others, and giving.
First let’s discuss why we should give. We should give because we are taught to in the Bible, and it is a core component of Christianity! From the book of Deuteronomy, where Moses is providing the Israelites with the laws from the Lord he tells them, “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.” In the book of Hebrews, centuries later, we are directed, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Both verses prove the importance of giving and sharing what you have with others. Not only does giving help the less fortunate, it helps ourselves, because it is pleasing to God! Therefore, by giving we are covering the two most important commandments Jesus taught us: to love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
So what are the ways in which one can give? Well I’m sure the one that comes to most of our minds at first is donating money. I am a strong believer in donating to organizations that have either had a direct impact on my life, or ones who help others in ways that match my beliefs. For the organizations that have directly impacted my life, I regularly donate to my parish, my alma mater, my fraternity, and YCP. For organizations that impact others I have donated to the Salvation Army, United Way, Spirit Catholic Radio, EPS (Essential Pregnancy Services), and IPF (Institute for Priestly Formation). I encourage you all to think of the organizations that have had a special impact on you, and by donating to them they can continue to have a similar impact on others. I know not everyone has extra money to spend all the time, but even a few dollars go a long way in helping. When donating always check with your employer because many will match your donation, which is awesome!
Another great alternative to donating money is to donate your time. Time is one of the most precious gifts you can give, because it is finite. Just think about how special it really is: out of everything you could be doing with your time, you chose to spend it with or for them. There are so many opportunities during the Christmas season to volunteer your time, whether it be raising goods, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, or helping at your parish.
Lastly, another way to give to others is through prayer. Prayer is such a powerful way to give love and strength to others. Let’s face it, as much as we want to do all we can to help someone in need, the only one who can truly make it happen is God. I am in the Knights of Columbus, and every morning we receive an email of all the prayer requests people throughout Nebraska have submitted. I think it is such a special, yet simple act done, that by sending out these prayer requests each morning, you know thousands of prayer warriors will be praying together for a common need. I have submitted a couple requests myself on the behalf of others, and know how much they help and encourage those in need. If you don’t already take a few minutes out of your day to pray for others!
This is not only the season of giving, but it’s also the season of receiving. I’m not talking about receiving material gifts, although I’m sure we all can’t help but enjoy that. I’m talking about receiving the gifts from God. After all Advent is the period in anticipation and remembrance of the greatest gift ever given to us by God, the gift of Jesus. In Jesus, God came to Earth, took human form, saved us all from sin, and allowed us the opportunity to be in heaven with Him one day. God has also provided each one of us with gifts that make every individual unique. If we allow ourselves to fully receive these gifts we have been granted by God and use them for good, and the benefit of others, just imagine the impact we could make in our world!
Written by Schuyler Dougherty, YCP Omaha, Parish Ambassador
Our executive speaker in August 2017 was Jenn Baugh, talking about "Calling Hearts to Witness". Her presentation took place at St. Robert Bellarmine in Omaha, Nebraska.
Speak Lord, Your Servant is Listening
In today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 8:5-11), a centurion calls upon Jesus to help his servant. Jesus says to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion replies, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.”
Frequently hearing and praying a similar passage during the preparation of the Eucharistic, I’ve wondered what exactly is “the word?” Reading on, the centurion relates how he too, has the authority to command people to “Go,” “Come here,” and “Do this.” Amazed by the faith of the centurion, Jesus says, “You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.”
So, in essence, “the word” is whatever we, the humble and faithful servants, ask of our Lord. It’s no secret that if you ask, you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. It’s challenging to accept that our prayers will be answered in God’s time and in accordance with His will. Yet, we are reminded that if we first seek the kingdom of God, He will provide for all of our needs just as He provides for the birds of the air.
Back in 2016, Jeff Schiefelbein, YCP National Board Member, talked about being Catholic 24-7 at the August executive speaker event in Omaha. Jeff also issued a challenge. He said, “There’s something in your faith life that you think about a lot but you don’t do. […] Pick one thing and do it. You are not too busy for that one thing.” The crowd, myself included, accepted his challenge with a resounding “Yes.”
The first thing that came to mind was for me to do the devotion to the Sacred Heart, by attending Mass and Adoration on the first Friday of every month. As a measurable goal, I challenged myself to continue the First Friday Devotion for nine consecutive months. Slowly, but surely I feel that I have received many blessings by deepening my faith life. As we begin the season of Advent, I think about the image of Jesus knocking at the door. Though you might feel unworthy, open your heart to Him and trust in His divine providence.
Morning Offering Prayer
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, for the salvation of souls, the reparation of sins, the reunion of all Christians, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father this month. Amen.
Written by: Scott Schmidt, YCP Omaha, Parish Ambassador
Our executive speaker in July 2017 was Don Kleine, talking about "Balancing Justice with God's Mercy". His presentation took place at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, Nebraska.
Opportunities for Thanksgiving
With Thanksgiving approaching I started reflecting on all the things I am thankful for and all the gifts I have been given. My family and friends, my job, my dog, a home, hugs from Pre-K kids, chocolate, wine, etc. Then I started thinking about what I may have forgotten and it hit me: We tend to forget to be thankful for the things that have perhaps shaped us the most, the events or people that force us to grow and stretch. It was a lightbulb moment.
Maybe the things we need to be more thankful for are the things we would avoid if we could. Like loss and waiting and conflict. Fortunately, God knows better and is wonderful at providing us with opportunities to grow in virtue.
These opportunities aren’t all rainbows and butterflies, more like porcupines and thunderstorms. I know my first response might be anger, annoyance, or disheartenment. But, when I really think about it, or look back after struggling through (because seriously how many of us are actually thinking about growing in virtue in the heat of the moment?), I realize I should thank God for all those chances He’s given me to grow. Like the co-worker that really gives me an opportunity to practice charity. Or that student that pushes my patience past it’s limits and allows, or forces, me to stretch it just a little bit farther. It could be getting assigned a work project I really don’t want to do, that invites me to practice joyful obedience. Or, experiencing a prayer life that feels empty or dark, challenging me to grow in fortitude, perseverance, and faith. (If you think you are alone in this you should read St. Teresa of Calcutta’s Dark Night of the Soul.) Maybe it’s waiting for that one thing that I desire above all others, and have been praying for forever, that encourages me to practice acceptance, trust in God’s plan, patience, more patience, and even more patience. Those last two, they’re hard. I’m not at the “Thank you God for these struggles” stage yet, but I’m working towards it.
At any moment these events can seem annoying or even pointless. Yet, these are some of the things we should be most thankful for: the trials and tribulations that offer us daily opportunities to grow in virtue. Of course, we should be thankful for all the wonderful gifts God has given us: family, friends, our health, a home. . . but let’s not forget to be thankful for our crosses too. It is these crosses that provide us the opportunities to draw ever closer to Him. So the next time you are thanking God for all the beautiful things in your life, don’t forget to thank Him for the struggles that lead you to that beauty.
Written by: Katie Garrett, YCP Omaha Parish Ambassador
Deciding for Sainthood
Last week we were able to celebrate All Saints’ Day. This day has become very important in my prayer/spiritual life. Just a couple years ago, I held the perspective that I wanted to be a saint someday, but hadn’t fully decided on when I would get around to it. I thought I would probably try for sainthood when I was old. It wasn’t necessarily a decision – it was more like an assumption. I assumed that the old people who went to daily Mass were probably well on their way to sainthood. I figured when I was older, I would start going to daily Mass and therefore achieve my saintly journey.
God had different plans for my life. Many know that I often pray that God keeps the bumpers (bowling reference) up in my life. I always pray that He keeps me on His designed path and lets me get redirected (no matter how difficult/painful) off the bumpers and therefore keeps me out of the gutter. I’ve realized that God honors that prayer. He has placed bumpers in my life on multiple occasions and, though these bumper experiences have been emotionally painful, I know that He’s been there for me through those experiences.
After my last bumper experience (a broken off engagement), I realized this doesn’t have to be as painful going forward. I was causing the pain. I was hitting the bumpers hard. I needed to cultivate a life of prayer, a true relationship with God, and thus make an effort to stay in the middle of the lane to avoid the painful bumpers. I needed to make the decision to become a Saint. It was then that I decided that I wanted to start striving to become a saint. After that decision, I remember praying “Lord, I’m in. Now what?”
My friends and family know that I often view the world and faith life through a sport’s perspective. Prior to the decision to become a saint, I thought I had to make the Hall of Fame to achieve sainthood. Post decision, I realized I needed to prayerfully say yes to “playing and striving.” I needed to grow my relationship with Jesus and He would help decide my abilities and experiences. I realized I was made to be a saint and God would utilize me in this world as He desires. I also realized that I didn’t need to eliminate passions and desires from my life in order to be a saint – I just needed to share them with Jesus.
As a result of this decision, All Saints’ Day has become a very special day. I wish I had celebrated it by feeling more a part of it in the past. In the past, I celebrated it as a spectator, but this year I celebrated it as a participant.
Footnote: If you want the best imagery for All Saints’ Day – pull up Fr Mike Schmitz’s podcast from 11/01/2015 “Ordinary Time: Ask. Offer. Accept.” Listen from 20:00 – 33:00. This story brings tears to my eyes every time. It also motivates me to work harder to run the race so I can help others.
Written by: Nick Valente, Part of the YCP Omaha Marketing Team
Jesus, I (Sometimes) Trust in You
We’ve all seen that billboard while driving on the highway. That picture of Jesus with two rays coming from His heart and the words “Jesus, I trust in you.” Millions have seen this image, but the significance and beauty of it is often missed. My love for the image of Divine Mercy has grown tremendously over the last year.
About a year ago, while in prayer, the Holy Spirit revealed a deep wound in my heart of distrust. It had been a couple years since the source of the problem, and life went on. I thought I was completely over it and Jesus and I were solid! But God revealed that all I had done was brush it under the rug, out of sight, out of mind, and there was some healing that needed to take place in our relationship.
All of a sudden I had an overwhelming awareness of the hurt, and I HATED it. If I heard “When God says He’s going to do something, He does it. He follows through on His promises,” my mind would respond with “Not necessarily.” The sentence “God provides” would be finished in my mind with “but only sometimes”. Any Bible verses along these lines were heard with this same doubt and negativity. I hated that I didn’t trust Him. I hated the hurt. I hated my skepticism. I hated that I couldn’t just shut it off and brush it under the rug again, and that Jesus was asking me to embrace it. For months I begged Jesus to heal the wound, to help me grow in trusting Him, to restore my faith. For months, nothing changed.
I knew He didn’t want me believing these lies and that He wanted me to trust Him wholeheartedly. I asked Jesus why He wouldn’t just heal my heart already. The response I got was, “Just stay with me.” Jesus was asking me not to run away from it, not to run away from Him. He knew how hard it was for me to remain in the wound, to be patient, and to be still. Another month passed, and it was in that desperation that He led me to the book “33 Days to Merciful Love” by Fr. Michael Gaitley. It’s a “do-it-yourself” retreat in preparation for Consecration to Divine Mercy. In short, Fr. Gaitley describes a consecration to Divine Mercy as a self-offering to God (a setting apart of oneself for God) for the specific purpose of glorifying God’s mercy. I thought, “What better way to combat distrust head on than by consecrating myself to Divine Mercy, with the signature phrase ‘Jesus, I trust in you’. This has to work! Right?”
In this book I learned that we all have a trust problem (to one degree or another) as a result of original sin. We doubt God’s goodness and trustworthiness, and that’s why we sin. It discussed Abraham’s and Mary’s examples of faith, how they “hoped against hope”, believed God was faithful even when it seemed impossible, and how God uses Mary to heal our wounds of distrust in God. I learned how St. Therese of Lisieux’s “little way” teaches us that the more broken and imperfect our humanity is, the more God wants to flood us with His ocean of mercy, if only we open our hearts to receive it. It actually pains Jesus when people don’t want to receive His grace and mercy.
This book led not only to healing my heart, but giving me a deeper love and trust in God than I have ever known before! It taught me to truly live and trust God in the present. You see, I’m a planner, and being with Jesus in the present has always been hard for me. But this deeper trust has allowed me to be okay letting go of control, knowing that God will take care of everything perfectly. Doubt may try to creep in here and there, but I can always go back to the lessons of “33 Days to Merciful Love”: Hope against hope. Keep trusting and keep trying. Jesus, I trust in you.
Sometimes God asks us to walk through the fire and wait out the storm. Sometimes God lets the wound remain. But it is only because He wants to lead us to something greater and into a deeper relationship with Him. So, if you find yourself in a place of hurt, lacking faith, lacking trust, or really just about any other circumstance you could find yourself in, I could not recommend enough consecrating yourself to Divine Mercy. Read up on Divine Mercy, read “33 Days to Merciful Love”, or watch documentaries on Formed.org. His Divine Mercy is truly an incredible gift that God has given us! And one that I pray each of you encounter in a very personal way.
St. Faustina, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. John Paul the Great, pray for us.
Divine Mercy, have mercy on us. Jesus, I trust in you.
Written by: Kristin Vankat, YCP Omaha Assistant Director of Finance and Parish Ambassador
Christians Encounter Christ
Like many of our YCP friends, I attended Catholic schools my entire life, including a Jesuit high school and a Jesuit university. My grandparents, parents, and most of my aunts and uncles were all strong Catholics. I prayed every night before going to bed, just as my parents taught me. Going to Mass with my classmates during the week and again with our families on the weekend helped ground me, and didn’t really give me an option to NOT be a practicing Catholic. It wasn’t until I was in college that I started skipping Mass and slowly falling out of practice. Without my family to take me to Mass every Sunday, or a core group of friends who were truly dedicated to holding me accountable, I found it surprisingly easy to just stop going altogether. The only part of my faith life that remained consistent throughout college was my nightly prayer routine – and even that had become less-than-nightly.
After graduation, I became even more disconnected with the Catholic Church. I was living downtown and fully enjoying my weekends in that atmosphere. I had many co-workers who were not Catholic and many new friends who did not practice any religion, let alone the Catholic faith. Religion was not discussed in the office and I did not have any family members in town fostering the development of my Catholic faith. At the time, I didn’t think much of it, but when things got challenging at work or in my personal life, I still found myself turning toward prayer and seeking guidance from God. I didn’t realize it then, but I know now that I was deeply missing my Catholic foundation.
After a lot of discernment and over a year of interviews, I made a complete career change and found myself in a work environment that actually encouraged my spiritual development in addition to my professional development. By God’s design, a senior financial advisor at Merrill Lynch who helped start KVSS (Spirit 102.7) in Omaha, became my mentor. After our business meetings, we found comfort in being able to discuss Jesus and our common values in the office. Steve challenged me to become more active in my faith life again. In addition to changing the presets in my car to 102.7, 88.1, and 100.7, he suggested a retreat called Christians Encounter Christ (CEC). In the spring of 2017, I eventually took the plunge at the request of another trusted mentor in Omaha, who had also participated in CEC.
By God’s design (again), I went on the CEC retreat exactly 10 years after my Kairos retreat in high school (a very pivotal retreat the junior year of high school in Jesuit schools across the U.S.) and 25 years after Steve and my other mentor had completed their CEC retreat together (neither of them knew we were connected and their invitations to CEC were independent of one another). This retreat reignited the fire inside me to be a witness to Christ and it connected me with 3000+ people who had shared my experience through their own CEC weekend. I now attend a weekly prayer group at 6:00 am on Friday mornings with fellow CEC men who help me stay on track as we do our best to Know, Love, and Serve God. I highly recommend the CEC retreat to any of our YCP family and would be happy to discuss my experience one-on-one at our next speaker series or happy hour event.
Written by: Christopher Tooker, YCP Omaha Parish Ambassador
Our executive speaker in June 2017 was Paul Jeffrey, talking about "Trusting in Christ's Design for Your Life". His presentation took place at the St. John Paul II Newman Center in Omaha, Nebraska.