Category Archives: All Blogs

Back In Session

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Hello Young Church! WELCOME BACK, to school, I mean. The chapter of summer has closed once again and we are leaving the days of Netflix bingeing and beach days and entering the season of waking at 7:30 in the morning, moving back into the dorms and the joy of taking the bus. It seems the best part of back to school is school supplies sales at Target, but trust me there’s so much more. This is the season of rejuvenation, we relaxed and went on adventures in summer, we reflected on our school year, now it’s time to come back stronger than ever. With your new supplies, add one more essential to your bookbag: a daily/weekly devotional. With school starting it will feel like time is slipping away.  Having a daily/weekly devotional not only prepares us for the day, but it helps us stay focus throughout the day. When starting your day off with a simple devotion, you invite the spirit of peace, joy and love into your heart and you are more keen to reject confusion, negativity and gossip. The key is finding a devotional that works for you!

1. Do you want daily or weekly?

2. Do you like a specific author?

3. Is there a specific topic you have in mind?

I have personally done devotionals that centered on Mary, a specific saint and women in the bible! I have also done devotionals for every day, and trust me, every time I start my day with devotion I enter the day stronger.

Paul tells us to put on the armor of Christ, and a devotional can be a part of your uniform for battle! As we enter fully into fall, let us not lose our discipline and continue to water the seed that has been planted within us, so that we may grow in faith and love towards Christ and toward neighbor.

In Peace,

Marlys

More Than a Coach

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There are a number adjectives that are used to describe Tom Coughlin, the former Head Coach and current Executive Vice President of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

Tough.

Disciplined.

Detailed.

But what are other adjectives that Coughlin emulates as much as he does his other traits, but still go relatively unnoticed?

Devout. 

Charitable.

Thoughtful.

Coughlin, a practicing Catholic, is as embedded in the city of Jacksonville as any one man can be, and this has dated back to his arrival to the city in 1995.

He was the first coach of the cities first major sports team. He lead them to early success and has remained a legend in the area.

But the impact he has made on the residents of Jacksonville, and around the entire United States, can be found off the field as well. He is truly a man who lives his faith.

The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation, or the Jay Foundation, was started by Coughlin in Jacksonville in 1996. It is a non-profit foundation that focuses on supporting families that have children who are being treated for cancer.

While Coughlin was the Head Coach at Boston College, his position before the Jaguars, he witnessed one of his players, Jay McGillis, suffer from Leukemia.

Coughlin was able to witness firsthand the impact that cancer has on a family, both emotionally and financially. Since that point, he has been moved to help the sick and the needy as much as he can.

There are not many better ways for one to demonstrate their faith and character than to aid the sick or worse-off, and there are not many men who do this with more dignity or consistency than Tom Coughlin.

By 2004, Coughlin had expanded the Jay Fund to New York City. This continued to aid families while both increasing funds and number of families treated.

Today, Coughlin still works with the Jay Fund and hospitals throughout the country to aid cancer patients and their families. He has been able to donated over $2 million dollars in aid.

This is something that has traveled with him through his career just as much as any of his playbooks or coaching staff’s.

When Tom Coughlin steps away from football, he will be remembered as a Super Bowl winning coach, a Jacksonville legend, and an all time football authoritarian. There is no debating the impact that Coughlin has made with his work on the field.

But people should never look past the impact Coughlin makes off the field. Being Catholic is being humane and charitable, and Tom Coughlin personifies that completely.

Differing Opinions by Tracy Gaboyau

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In my sophomore year of high school, my group of friends in my class and I were discussing controversial topics. We were telling each other about our different beliefs, religions, and our views on topics such as abortion and homosexuality. Yes! I know, very heavy topics for sophomores in high school. But those are topics that allow us to learn more about the people we surround ourselves with, to step out of our “social media bubble” and discuss ideas prevalent in our society and be comfortable hearing different views respectfully.

Somewhere within our discussion a friend started to mention how he/she hadn’t been to church in months. Another added that they weren’t really dedicated to the religion they were brought up in, another decided that they should start going to church more often, and another realized that they might want to venture into Catholicism… My favorite part about the whole discussion however, was that no matter our opinion, we were all respectful of each other’s choices. And though we may not agree with them, we realized that each person was entitled to their specific belief.

What may have happened in that one class, however, is not the way it may have happened in the real world, or better yet any of my other classes. As we can see in today’s news, it can be hard to express your religious beliefs without receiving backlash from those who may not understand or agree. Whether it be Catholicism or Islam or Atheism, at times others do not understand that the passion you hold for your beliefs is the same passion that they hold for their beliefs, and just like you feel that you do not want to shift or change your views, others probably do not as well.

The point I am trying to make however, is that sticking to your beliefs, especially in high school, is difficult. We are constantly being thrown different opinions and beliefs and being put into situations that force us to identify what kind of person we are and what kind of person we want to be. I’m by no means an expert, but I have somehow made it to my senior year unscathed, and closer to God than when I started high school, and here are some of the ways I did it, I hope that they may help you:

 

Don’t be afraid to say no.

If you feel like you are being or are about to be put into a situation where you may have to compromise your religious beliefs in order to fit in, or conform, it is okay to say no. You don’t have to attend every party or every social gathering, and if you’re friends don’t respect decision to step out or remove yourself from situations, then those probably aren’t the friends you should be surrounding yourself with.

Educate people!

A lot of the times we hear others bad-mouthing our faith, it’s probably due to ignorance. Not ignorance in a negative connotation where the person realizes the way things truly are but chooses to ignore the truth, but ignorance as in literally not knowing. While it is okay to have differing opinions, it is not okay to trash talk things people know nothing about. If you hear something that is not right, kindly let people know the truth. No need to be condescending.

Respect! Others! Opinions!

Like I said before, the same way that you feel strongly about your beliefs, is the same way others may feel about their beliefs, and just like you may not want to change your opinions, others may not want to change theirs. It is okay to disagree, and it is okay to think differently. But it is not okay to give people a hard time for adhering to the beliefs they were taught at a young age, and it is also not okay to look down on someone because they are not living their life the same way that you are living yours. As stated by my sponsor Valerie, “many times people take an opinion as the truth or reality… while to the contrary an opinion is just someone’s point of view.” Do not forget that the Lord gave us freewill, and as written in Proverbs 16:9 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps”.

 

So with these three tips I leave you, and I hope that you take them into consideration to make the 2017-2018 school year the best, most blessed, one yet.

Transfigure the Ordinary

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This is a picture of me in Israel, “The Holy Land.” The mountains and valleys, the roads and cities that God Himself walked. Where Jesus was born and raised, lived and died and lived again.

I was there – in the settings of scripture – just last month. And now, I’m in Gainesville, Florida sweating off the summer heat and scraping by minute after minute in summer classes while day -dreaming of my adventurous and soul-inspiring travels last month. My God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Okay, that is a little dramatic. But have you ever caught that feeling? The post-church retreat, post-mission trip, post-pilgrimage, post-RiseUp blues? What time are you thinking back to? And now, how are you?

Maybe you’re facing the daily grind of seemingly meaningless responsibilities like me?

Or maybe the opposite? Maybe you have so much free time that you’re bored.

Why can’t I go back to this time, or this place, with these people?

What made those moments in the past so special anyways?

In math class a decent guess to a big question is usually 0 or 1. Talking about life and good things, a good guess is usually Jesus or Love. They happen to be one in the same.

Take a minute to reflect on whatever moment you thought of earlier. It was most likely a joyous and happy time.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above…” – James 1:17

Back to the picture of me. (Side Note: it’s hard not to smile when you remember Jesus is alive).

That mountain behind me is Mount Tabor. Mount Tabor is well known as the site of the Transfiguration of Christ.  (Mark 9:2-8) Peter, John, and James followed Jesus up the mountain, where he then revealed Himself and His glory to them. Imagine that! Jesus “became dazzling white.”  Peter says “Rabbi, it is good that we are here!”

Yeah, you better believe it was good to be there! Peter wanted to set up camp and stay forever. It sounds like those cherished moments in our own lives. “Can we just stay here forever?”

There are times and places when and where Christ reveals Himself and His love to us! He does so through our experiences and adventures, through our relationships with those around us.

It wasn’t long before Peter, John, and James had to return down the mountain and continue to love and serve God by loving and serving His people. We are called to look back to the times when Christ revealed Himself to us and to be inspired by our experiences with Him. He uses these high points, or “mountains,” in our lives to help encourage us through our low points, or “valleys.” So whether your valley today is the daily grind of work and responsibilities, or the struggle to motivate yourself to be productive, open your heart to the Transfiguration of Christ. He reveals the ordinary to be extraordinary. He makes all things new.

Music & Faith

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Music is the one language that speaks to everyone regardless of your class, color or creed. What is the message behind music and how do we take it to the next level?

My name is Rafael Alicea and I have been moved by music all my life. My goal was to be a super star and live the high life of Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Drake, Bruno Mars etc. But who makes them all super stars-who put them on the map? YOU…and only you. The focus is on the fame and fortune, not on the impact or influence they have on others. We truly lose the gift of God-Music. I’m not judging anyone here, but we need to focus on the message. God’s gift of Music. Think about this: if all artist were to take their music to reach out to a Christian audience, can you imagine the impact, influence and conversion of this world? WE can make a difference…

Let’s take a look at toddlers. When they reach the age of two and they hear music, their bodies just start to move, groove and wiggle. There is something within us that makes us move to music. What makes music anyway? The bass, singing, the rhythm? Whatever happens- music transforms us and takes us to happy medium. You know what I’m talking about.

In my conversion of faith, I gave up cold-turkey everything related to music. I’m a Catholic Christian viewing music in a totally new perspective. When in front of Jesus in adoration (which is now a huge part of my life) I heard the voice of the Lord speak to me: SING TO ME A NEW SONG. Troubled by this message, I started to search over the internet SING TO ME A NEW SONG and this is what I found.

Psalm 96:1 Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.

1 Chronicles 16:23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.

Psalm 13:6 I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 33:3 Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.

To me, this meant to play music and praise Him at all times-in the name of Jesus. Now, Toby Mac, Big Daddy Weave, Hill Song United, Matt Maher and Chris Tomlin will play on my radio at all times. Secular music was great and now listening to Christian music it is awesome! This helps me understand the value of music and remember that it is truly a gift of praise. I’m now part of Rise Up, this new movement motivating the young church today. I’m able to give the gift of music.

What is your gift? Do you have to give it up? Nooooo… just Rise Up, give back to God and you will succeed in all you do.I hope this makes you value Music. Please always share good music with your loved ones, friends and family.

God Bless -DJ Elevate will always intercept to make music move your soul. AMEN.

Faith & Theology

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The NCAA men’s baseball college world series officially concluded in the final weeks of June. The Florida Gators won their first men’s baseball championship in school history after defeating the LSU Tigers.

But the Gators victory was not the only thing to take away and reflect on. Neither was the tournament, or the MVP, or anything else on the field.

Instead, this moment came from the team who came in 2nd.

The post-game press conference given by LSU Coach Paul Mainieri, a known Catholic, touched on several topics–from his team’s performance to his pride for his school, to disappointment over the loss.

But there was one moment in his interview that provided a perfect example for the role a sports team can play in the lives of others, as well as an example of several values that all should live by.

Here is an excerpt from the transcript.

“I remember my wife saying to me last summer, she said, ‘Man, wouldn’t it be great if you could go out and win the national championship this spring to unify the community and give them something to be happy about and be proud of?’  And I’ve never — I never forgot that she said that.”

Mainieri shows where his values and priorities lie. He has thought about his community and the positive impact that he and his team could make on the community.

This aligns with the verse Philippians 2:4
“do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

The church teaches that, while you should prosper for yourself, you should have the interests of others in your heart. This is the same thing Mainieri is teaching his players.

“I don’t really talk about it that much with the players, but in my heart, was something we really wanted to do. And even though we came up a little bit short-two victories short-I think we did a lot of things this year to make the people in our community proud and our state proud.”

Here, Mainieri again shows that, despite talking moments after a momentous loss, the coach was still thinking about others. This was clearly more than just a game, which means that regardless of the final result, they can take solace in it.

This aligns with the verse Galatians 6:9-10
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

The church teaches to do good for all people if we have the self-ability to, which is the same thing that Mainieri emphasizes to his players.

“But I know these players to my right and all the players in that clubhouse gave it everything that they had. And I don’t think they have anything to be ashamed of. And I hope that the people of Louisiana and in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, et cetera, are proud of our team.

“I think they should be. They’re a great group of kids. They’re wonderful young men. And this is just the cruelty of what we do.”

Mainieri closes out by thinking more about the type of people he is coaching and playing for, before thinking about the result of the game.

The Tigers may not have left the college world series as champions, but they made an impression on everyone who was willing to listen. They showed the core values that all, from the church, to sports, should learn from. Give to others. Teach others. And care for your community.

Faithful Chicken

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“A faith that is afraid of other people is not faith at all.” Thomas Merton

I saw this quote today and could not help but think this could describe me at times.  First, I don’t enjoy conflict but who does.  I try to get along with others, and I think if I stay away from certain topics we can all get along better.

I was checking out at the grocery store the other day, and I was wearing a t-shirt from a retreat, and the clerk asked me if I went to church.  I said yes, and then he said he doesn’t anymore and doesn’t feel like he needs to.  I thought of all these scenarios in my head of what I could say, like being part of a community is so important, my faith is stronger because I experience Jesus in others and what about not being able to receive Christ in the Eucharist.  I was motivated to talk about it, but then my negative thoughts kicked in:  What if he thinks I am weird? I don’t want to look or feel stupid.  Will I offend him? Will I have the right answers? Will I have to defend my faith?  What if I didn’t say the right things and keep him from Christ.  No, I just said, “Oh well that is too bad.”  I became what I call a Faithful Chicken and was shut down by my fear.   For some reason, I kept thinking about what I had done.  I felt like I had missed such an opportunity to share about something that is important to me.  God had chosen me as a messenger, and I let fear get in the way.  So, I went home and thought about what I would say if I were put in that situation again. I thought about why my faith is so important to me.  In all this, I realized that if I let my fear overcome my faith, it will only lead to regret.

The number one reason why people do not share about their faith is the fear of rejection. Have you ever wanted to talk about your faith but you didn’t because you were afraid of being rejected? If we share and are rejected, they are not rejecting me and you, they are rejecting Christ.

 

 

Staying Hopeful by Tracy Gaboyau

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I’ve never had anyone ask me directly: “Why do you believe in God?” and if anyone did I honestly don’t think I would be able to formulate words. As a teenager, I am constantly growing into my faith and strengthening my relationship with God. Though I may not know about the Catholic faith as much as my confirmation sponsor, or my priest, or my bishop, I do know the joy that I experience at every youth convention that I go to with my youth group. I know the great feeling of triumph I get whenever I am exposed to the Holy Sacrament. I am best friends with the exhilaration of having a great confession, and I am in love with the way any and every Gospel has a way of shape-shifting itself and making itself true in any instance of my life.

That being said, however, it is (and I think I speak for anyone that has ever walked this earth when I say this) almost impossible to remain in that state of bliss forever, nevertheless a whole day. One way or another, whether it be things not going our way, or having to make sacrifices, or having to overcome difficult adversities; we will get moments when we are sad. If you’re a teenager like me, your hormones will go crazy, and you’ll want to scream and cry and yell all at the same time. But hey, that’s okay. (Okay, maybe not the screaming and yelling thing, but you get it).

With every situation we face, we are always given the choice as to how we want to react to it. In a good situation it’s always easy to be content, take it in, and remain hopeful. But what about the situations when we’re put on edge, and we’re hanging by a thread? It becomes a lot more difficult to remain hopeful when the hope that you did have is lost or has been destroyed by an unfortunate situation.

One of my favorite aspects of the Catholic Church and its teachings are the theological virtues. If you are not familiar with them, these include faith, hope, and charity. In reality, I think all three of these virtues idealize the Catholic faith, but the one I want to focus on today is hope. The Catechism defines hope as “the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

While it is impossible to remain in the state of bliss I mentioned above forever, we shouldn’t let the unfortunate circumstances we are faced with alter the way we view that bliss, or alter our perception of hope. God gave us the gift of hope as a message saying, “hey listen, no matter the situation, there’s always a chance for improvement. As long as you have me in your heart, I will never abandon you”, so who are we to say all hope is lost?

Take the future, for instance, due to its uncertainty, and our fear of failure, we at times decide to take matters into our own hands and exclude God. We have to remember however, that fear is the opposite of hope. Whereas fear disconnects us from our joy and our feeling of protection in God’s hands, the virtue of hope reaffirms our faith and our beliefs in the grace of the Holy Spirit.

In Jeremiah 29:11, it is written, ““For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I think of this verse quite often, actually. When the lives of innocent people are lost at a concert, in a place where people come to have fun and live life, when I hear of the injustices haunting our society in ways I thought were left in the 1960’s, when I hear that children are being orphaned over a fight for power-I always think, how are we supposed to bounce back from that?

Though we don’t get to choose what happens in our lives, or on this earth, we do get to choose how to react to it. And God calls us to react to it with faith, hope, and charity.

Remember: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor. 2:9) So hey, keep your chin up.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Head Coach Tyronn Lue

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On Thursday evening, Head Coach Tyronn Lue and the Cleveland Cavaliers got their 3rd straight chance at an NBA championship as they began their series vs. the Golden State Warriors.

Tyronn Lue has faced adversity at various points throughout both his career and life, but much of what has gotten him to this point in his career are his roots in his family and his faith.

Lue is from a small town in Missouri called Mexico. He did not have much growing up. Since then he has reflected on his time in Mexico as difficult but rewarding because what he did have were his faith and his family. His grandfather and his mother were among hist biggest supporters in both his professional and his faith journey.

Since Lue has moved away from Mexico, he has played in the NBA, played in an NBA finals, and coached the Cavilers to their first ever NBA championship, which came at the expense of the greatest regular season team of all time, the 2016 Golden State Warriors.

Philippians 4:12-13
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Lue is living proof of this scripture. Once a poor child from Mexico, Missouri, without much else then his family, faith, and basketball, Lue now has a multi-million dollar contract.

He has credited his tough upbringing for much of his success, but he has since used his situation to help those who were once in the less fortunate position that he was once in.

Lue now personally pays for several charity events and churches in Mexico each year during the holidays. No corporate sponsors, all from his own pocket. He remembers what it is like being poor with nothing to turn to except family, faith, and ball. He wants to do anything he can to help the kids who he was once like. Anything to get them to turn to God or family or basketball.

For the next month we will hear about Lue, the coach, but we regardless of the result of the NBA finals, we should celebrate Tyronn Lue, the person. The player, coach, son, and man of faith.

So, what’s the plan now?

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Hi, friends! So I just recently graduated from college and oh how happy I am! But there’s the lingering question, actually the never ending question, “So, what’s the plan now? What do you do now?” And the internal panic attack begins!

So many times in life we struggle with the transition into the next stage of life, whether from college to adulthood or pre-k to kindergarten and everything in between! If you ever feel like that, you are not alone!

So I brought my issue to prayer and also dug into my Bible to see what the Lord shares with us about transitional stages of life.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Hebrews 6:19

In all honesty, what I’ve discovered is that with every transition there is one constant feature: GOD! God has never left me in my path, and I don’t think he plans to in the future. With graduation season upon us, I invite all graduates and fellow transition buddies to take their fear of the future and of life, to prayer. There was a time in life when I had to admit to myself that anxiety is the cure for nothing, in fact, anxiety is just rumination expressing itself. Sometimes not knowing what to do next allows one’s soul to be open for adventure with God.  So, on your road to adventure, think of the following:

1.What sets your soul on fire?

We see the quote everywhere, “Be in pursuit of what sets your heart on fire,” or “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” These words are perfect reminders for us to question ourselves. What brings you joy? What sets a fire within your heart? Is it working with children? The church? Medicine? Whatever it is, pursue it and always ask God during each step.

2.What is the root of your fear?

The most repeated phrases in the Bible is ‘be not afraid’, but we do it so often. What is the root of your fear? Through my journey, I discovered one of the causes for my fear is a lack of trust in God. This discovery allowed me to open up fully about my fear.

3.Who are your cheerleaders?

Through this journey of transition, one of the biggest factors pertains to your circle or your squad. Who’s in your squad? Are they people that will put you to the top of the pyramid when needed and be a sturdy foundation? Will they be there for you, support you and tell you the truth at all times? The most beautiful thing about our love for Christ is that he is a man of relationships. His squad was amazing and though they struggled, they always had each other’s back.

So, as I sit here, a recent grad open for adventure, I invite you to do the same! Always ask yourself, what sets your soul on fire? What is the root of your fear? And who is in your squad? We have a hope as an anchor for our soul, let him steer the ship that allows you to welcome adventure with open arms!

Love God, love others, and love yourself. ❤

 

 

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