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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Best Advent Ever!


“Make this the best Advent ever!”  For a number of years I have heard this phrase come out the mouths of numerous people, namely Catholic-motivational speakers and priests.  After hearing that phrase I am normally thinking something along the lines of “yeah that is an awesome idea!, I am going to make this my best Advent ever!.”  Usually parishes are helpful in this category and pass out a million of those little blue books or they have a little mountain of  Magnificat Advent Companions so perfectly aligned on a table in the gathering area of the church.  These books are great helpers and in the past I have used the daily reflections to guide my spiritual life, but I always found myself feeling as if there is more that I can do (or not do) to truly “make this the best Advent ever.”  So I am stuck with the question “what can I do?”  if one  thinks about that question too long you find that Advent has passed and it was the more like the most mediocre Advent ever. If I may propose though that one should start with the question “what is Advent celebrating?”, we are looking expectantly towards the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ, first in history as a baby being born in Bethlehem, but also we look towards the second coming. As I was reflecting on Advent, the desire to encounter Christ like it was the first time I ever had was on my heart.  Christ makes all things new, and it starts with our relationship with Him.  When Christmas comes I want to experience the joy that Mary and Joseph had when they looked upon that new born child as He lay in a manger, not because of the gifts I get from friends or family, but joy from the ultimate gift of God becoming man to save me and bring me His love personally.  So back comes this question “What should I do in Advent?” Well I do not have an answer for you, but for me it starts with more prayer and from that flows acts of love done because I have been so loved by God that I want to not be able to help loving ALL those around me. I pray that this Advent season all people can prepare a new place in their hearts for our Lord that with that be filled with peace and love.  Pax.  

-Mike Picard




Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Dose of Reality


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A few months into our mission year, and I was about due for a strong dose of reality.

Now, often times when we think of the phrase, “a dose of reality”, we relate it to a strong, jolting wake up call that pulls us out of a daydream and an overly optimistic unreality. But that’s not what happened to me at all. It’s not as if I’ve been living with my head in the clouds, expecting to perfectly reach the heart of every young person I meet with the love of Jesus. On the contrary, I have been very aware of the reality these teenagers are facing; the divorce of their parents, being bullied at school, losing a loved one to cancer, struggling with the pressures of perfectionism, trying to live up to the unreasonable expectations of this world, or collapsing beneath additional pressures of lust, drugs and alcohol. These are the stories we hear frequently on SPIRITUS, and they certainly have a way of really getting to you and making you feel like the task of restoring faith, hope and love are impossible in such a broken world. Sure, hope can be seen in the hearts of the teens who realize their thirst for God, and even more so in those who are willing to do something about quenching that thirst, but the pain we encounter still wears on us.

For me, a dose of reality came not by realizing more of the pain and suffering of the mission, but by the glorious splendor the mission provides when we persevere. One of the local parishes was gracious enough to host Treasures of the Church, an evangelization ministry in which Fr. Tom brings 150 relics out for veneration, and those of us who were not on retreat where able to attend. Being able to walk around the room surrounded by the bones and remains of so many saints was breathtaking, and I was surprised by the amount of grace and peace I felt just by being there. I’ve been to numerous reliquaries in Rome, and their effect on me was passing. But this time around I was uniquely struck by what I was finally able to put into words as ‘a strong dose of reality’. The saints are so real, and their stories are so raw. Martyrs, mothers, popes, apostles, preachers, servants, laity - holiness is possible in all stages of life, including after death. The profound reality that these holy men and women are actively apart of this mission of evangelization in union with me reached me to my core, and praise be to God, this strong dosage was certainly what I needed.

The grace that was given to me was the realization that yes, our mission is hard and overwhelming. We can’t do it alone. But, praise be to God, we don’t have to. The saints join us in our mission, and through their intercession and the mercy of God, we cannot and will not fail. And that is the truth of the Body of Christ, a truth that is just as real as our sufferings.

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A photo of the relic of my patroness, St. Mary Magdalene

-Ashley Lange

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving

     At this time of the year it can be so easy to get caught up in the chaos and commercialism of our modern culture. Being on SPIRITUS has been such an amazing gift for me because I am surrounded by people who live in the present, who remain focused on Jesus Christ no matter what life throws at them. My team mates have helped me to stay grounded in the truth that I am a child of God, that I am created to share the light of Christ. We celebrated this holiday with each other by having a team dinner, during which we went around the table saying what we are thankful for, how we appreciate the gifts God has given us. It was so nice to recognize the abundance of blessings we have received throughout the first few months of the mission year. I invite you and your family to do the same. How much joy we receive when we take notice of all the wonderful things God provides us with!

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

     -Gabriel Ogle

Monday, November 14, 2016

Good Music!



Coming from a farm in small-town Minnesota, I was raised on good ole’ country music. Everything from Hank Williams and Johnny Cash to my more currently developed tastes of Dierks Bentley, Jon Pardi, and George Strait. I pride myself on being able to name the artist and song title to almost every song on the station. There’s nothing better than singing to a new hit with the windows rolled down.  I didn’t think lyrics had much significance on me until my first week on SPIRITUS. We all climbed in the cars to head to our first mass together. What came out of the speakers was my first big wake-up call. Christian contemporary. There I was, sitting amongst these beautiful strangers (we’d just met an hour earlier) all singing along & I’d never heard of it. Song after song, I soon realized no one would be changing it to 100.1 Big Country anytime soon. Woah. Nine months, I thought to myself “can I do this”? Little did I know, this genre switch(foot) was just one of many alterations I would encounter in the upcoming days and weeks. Expanding on this genre switch out, no longer am I filling my heart with songs revolving around subjects like beer and back roads, allowing them to subconsciously desensitize me to the repercussions of mixing Jack Daniels and Jesus. Now songs like Priceless (King and Country) and At the Table (Josh Garrels) are filtering into my heart and I have no reservations believing in the lyrics or belting them out in the hallway. Mind you, this journey is far from over. I don’t plan to switch over completely anytime soon (not all country has bad connotations attached to it), but I am learning to appreciate new flavors of music, music that aligns with my morals, and embrace this part of being a missionary.

-Elizabeth Senkyr

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Hugs!

     I really like hugs. I know that not everyone likes hugs and I can respect that. I know that boundaries are important and I support that. But I like hugs a lot. I remember last year praying about it once or twice saying, "God, I'd like to be somewhere where I get more hugs." Now I'm at Spiritus and I get a couple dozen hugs every day.
God's been showering me with a lot of blessings here at Spiritus. One of my favorites is this simple opportunity for so many hugs.


God bless!
     -Peter Schmidt

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Little Moments


SPIRITUS provides many opportunities for the team to grow in Christ. Perhaps my favorite moments though, are the seemingly little ones. For example on one of our days off a few of us went to the Manderfield’s Bakery. We talked, laughed, and grew together. My favorite part of this outing was seeing a grandfather and his granddaughter come in and sit down with pastries. Watching them interact filled me with such joy and made me contemplate the love our Father has for us. On another occasion part of the team drove back from a small retreat in the rain. When we got back some of us danced barefooted in the rain. Thankfully, no one caught a cold after this adventure, but a sense of God’s love and joy was present. These and many more moments have shown me that God’s love can truly be found all around us. However, some of the best little moments are those spent in front of the tabernacle. We are blessed to have a chapel inside of Mount Tabor Center. Here one can always find a peaceful escape to remember what is truly important, which is God’s everlasting love for us. These seemingly small moments have helped me grow so much in my faith. I will forever be thankful for the time spent with SPIRITUS, igniting and growing in the faith.

-Gemma Cowan

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Young Adult Formation

        Recently, our director Eden was invited to speak at the Pastoral Leadership Conference for the diocese on the formation of young adults. Myself and another second year team member, Mike Picard, were invited along to share some of the ways we have benefited from young adult formation through SPIRITUS. It was such a privilege to spend the day speaking with lay leaders from all over the diocese about the need for young adult programming in parishes. Young adults need space to develop internal prayer and good human habits, but also have an external call and place where they can contribute to the parish community in a meaningful way. Young professionals often receive practical and professional development from work place but lack human, spiritual, and ministerial formation. Society often also forgets that young adults still need guidance and close mentorship which then links them to the greater adult community in the parish and gives them examples of how to accompany and mentor younger members of the parish. Young adults need the parish to provide these things and to be fed by the faith and parishes definitely need young adults as well!!

       -Brianna Trifiletti