All posts by Team RiseUp

A Conversation with Gabe, Liam, Luke and Sarah Cate

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Recently, I wanted to find out how some young people were feeling about COVID, faith and their prayer life.  It was a small taste of the disruption COVID has had on all of our lives and how we’ve all been challenged to dig a bit deeper to hang on to prayer, our connection to God and our connections to each other.  

Many of us had to adjust to online church services, on-line school and on-line meet ups.  It was a weird time for sure.  We felt an immediate and complete disconnection to relationships we’ve grown to love and depend on – our relationship with God, our relationships with friends and our relationships with loved ones we could no longer see in person.  

Not being able to physically go to church services meant we had to really commit to attending in a different way, through YouTube services.  It wasn’t easy and some did and some didn’t.  

Gabe Loomis said, “COVID has affected my faith life because I hadn’t been able to go in Mass and pray instead I had to pray at my house which is o.k. but I would rather, if I could, be in the house of God.”  At Mass I feel like I am more in touch with God but at home there are many distractions.

Liam Bradley said, “COVID has affected me because when they stopped having Mass I felt like I was pulled away from God and my prayer life was slowing and I wasn’t praying as much.”  

Sarah Cate Bradley said, “COVID has affected us because we can’t go to church events like Rise Up (note from me:  Rise Up did host PopUp Rise Up and hopefully, God willing, will be back on track this May) and we can’t hold hands…and sometimes we can’t even attend church.

Gabe, Liam and Sarah Cate felt an emptiness, a change and they were forced to adjust.  Gabe spoke about distractions when watching services on-line.  He said some of them were things like being able to see what’s going on outside, his little brothers were playing with toys nearby and he was really comfy on that couch.  I, as an adult, had some of the same distractions.  The couch was really comfy.  I had to really make myself focus and participate.  It was hard for sure.  But all of us felt a need to worship God who loves us so much.  We had to go to Him no matter how hard it was.   

Relationships with friends was hard too.  First of all, you couldn’t see them in person.  So sometimes the posts weren’t as nice and respectful as they could have been.  Some young people have told me about the bullying they received.  With heightened emotions, some young people didn’t know how to handle those feelings – feelings of loneliness, despair, isolation.  If you’re feeling any of these things, reach out to someone and let them know.  Talk to your pastor, your parent or other adult you trust.  They can help.  

And prayer is important!  Take some time to go into a quiet place and be still.  Listen to God.  Talk to him.  Luke Loomis says, “ I pray best at the end of the day before I go to bed and during Mass.”  Sarah Cate says, “ I pray best in my room…because that’s where I have the most focus.”  Liam say’s, “I pray best in my room because it’s quiet and I can focus.” You too can find your quiet place and the place where you can focus.  

Our relationships and prayer should go hand in hand.  Liam and Sarah Cate both pray before making hard decisions.  Liam says, “I ask Him to help me make the right choices when I’m with my friends.:”  Sarah Cate told me of a time when a friend pressured her to do something she knew was wrong.  She said, “I prayed to God for strength to tell her no.”      

So as things begin to get back to normal.  Remember all these feelings.  Remember how you felt when you couldn’t go to church.  Remember the distance you felt from your family and friends and don’t take all of that for granted.  Praise God.  Connect to Him and connect to friends in a positive uplifting way.  

And one last note about prayer…even Liam finds a time and place.  It’s right before a test.  How many of you have prayed then?  I know I have! 

Rise Up lifts all of your in prayer.  See you at Rise Up soon!

Who Do You Say I Am?

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Jesus asked his disciples this very question, “Who do you say I am?” Some of them said he was John the Baptist, some Elijah some Jeremiah.  These were all prophets.  But when he asked Peter, Peter responded “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Peter was a witness to Jesus’ public life.  He heard Him preach, he saw Him heal, he even saw Him raise the dead.  Peter knew Jesus was not like the other prophets he had read about and studied as a Jewish young man.  No, this man Jesus was different.  And by faith and encounter alone, Peter understood who Jesus really was.  

If Jesus asked me that same question today, “Who do you say I am?” What would I say?  What would you say?  Do we think of him as just a historical figure who lived a long, long time ago?  Do we think of him as a prophet on the same level as others who imparted their wisdom and spirituality on the world?  Or do we think of Him as the Son of the Living God?  

The Son of the Living God.   A God who lives with us…loves us… formed us in His likeness and gave us His Son as a living sacrifice for our sins.  And Jesus, his Son, who came and dwelt among us…taught, welcomed, chastised the powerful and uplifted the poor, healed the sick and raised the dead, and the best part of all…even after His death and resurrection, he wanted to remain with us through His Holy Spirit.  

So today, if we really let it happen, we will feel Jesus through prayer.  Let that feeling wash over you and transform your life.  Let your prayer be sincere and rest in His presence.  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and He is right here…right now… as present as he was over 2000 years ago.  Reach out because He is who He says He is!  

What Is Your Life Pointing Towards
by Katie Nelms

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There are times when things seem so hectic and uncertain that we feel the need to just be. We think that only a simple word from our mouths will cause an uproar or that if we go outside the safety of our homes, we will be judged or unsafe. I have felt this way to many times over the past six months. If I am being entirely honest with you, I have felt this way several times in my life, especially in high school. I felt as if anything I said would turn people away from me, or that if I lived true to who I was, I would be judged and picked apart for being me. For three years, I lived in the safe space of my personal bubble. I dreaded going to lunch and having to walk through the room, seeing tables that marked different friend groups’ territory. This was something I did not have, I dreaded walking the halls alone, so I became addicted to my phone, something that gave me the slightest bit of comfort, and do not get me started on the heart-stopping moment of being called to the board by my algebra teacher. All of these things left me questioning what I needed to do differently to avoid experiencing this anxiety anymore… and then one night, I asked myself what is my life was pointing towards. And the scariest moment of my life occurred then when I realized it was pointing to nothing. I couldn’t bear the thought that I was living such a vanilla life I had literally become scared to live. 

 I knew it was time for a change, so I found myself signing my name on the list hanging on the door of our campus minister’s office to take part in the upcoming junior-senior retreat. I was terrified, but I recognized Christ did not call us to comfort, and I had been living there for a very long time. A few months later, I arrived at the campgrounds with a pillow, sleeping bag, clothes, and a very closed heart. But throughout that weekend, as I heard each of my peers open up about some of the deepest, most hidden moments of their lives, I realized I wasn’t as alone as I had felt for so long. I remember thinking to myself, you mean to tell me… the captain of the football team … the guy I pass in the hall every day, who is always surrounded by people trying to get his attention, yeah him… his life isn’t perfect? My world was pretty much turned upside down, and in realizing everyone has a story to tell, I also was able to step out of the cozy little bubble that had held me back for so long. Spoiler alert … This was just the beginning of a journey that I am still on, and one of the roadblocks I continue to try and overcome is the fact that I find myself hoping my life points toward me and not Christ. One of my greatest fears has always been that I won’t be known, I think this stemmed from the great loneliness I experienced during high school, and to prevent that from happening, I would do things that brought me further from God that I could be closer to others.

In this, I always felt incredibly empty. The harder I tried to be relevant to others, I realized I had lost what was most important to me, the love of the Father. In this realization, I found where I am genuinely known. Let me tell you there is an incredible amount of peace that comes from knowing you are loved and recognized by the Father, and most importantly, that he calls you by name. That is what I had longed for my entire life. You know that moment when you come in contact with someone you recognize but don’t exactly know, and they say your name… I don’t know about you, but I am always taken aback. Wow, you know my name? You feel known. That is how it is with the Father, he calls us by name, and we call Him by His. When you believe that, even in troubled times, you will live a life of purpose, joy, and peace, and you will know where it comes from and what it is pointing towards, The Father.

How To Make Holy Week Holy
by Nancy M. Powers

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Holy Week is fast approaching. We’re half way through lent. Palm Sunday will be here before you know it. The day commemorating when Jesus entered Jerusalem a hero, a Savior, the Christ. People laid out palms in front of Him. They praised Him and shouted accolades. But soon He would be scorned, scourged, ridiculed and led to His death. The Via Dolorosa – The Way of Grief. Holy Week takes us on His journey as we enter into His Via Dolorosa.

We have to challenge ourselves to find ways in which we can really enter into Holy Week. A Way that is a culmination of our Lenten Journey towards the most important moment ever…the Resurrection of Jesus – Our Easter!

Here are a few ideas you may want to consider. If you have others, share them at our Facebook page at RiseUpYC.org.

Open your bible and read Matthew 26 and 27. Marks writes about it in Mark 14 and 15. Luke leads us in Luke 22 and 23. And John, who stood at the foot of the Cross writes about Jesus’ last days in John 18 and 19.

One of the most powerful moments in my life was when I washed the feet of another. Within your family, read the Gospel describing Jesus washing the feet of the disciples and then wash the feet of your family. It’s powerful!

If you’re a visual person, you may want to watch “The Passion of the Christ” – inspired by the writings of Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich, known for her purported visions of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Spend time in prayer..real prayer. Enter into it. Light a candle. Place a cross or other image in front of you. Enter into a song, a prayer, the quiet. I’m reminded of the lyrics by Kari Jobe.

The more I seek you
The more I find you
The more I find you, the more I love you

I wanna sit at your feet
Drink from the cup in your hand.
Lay back against you and breath, feel your heart beat
This love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand.
I melt in your peace, it’s overwhelming

Make Holy Week overwhelming. If you do I know your Easter will be epic. We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!

Unprecedented and Uncertain
by Onie Lee

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“Unprecedented and Uncertain” those seem to be the two terms I have heard continually in the last several weeks. I want to focus on the word uncertain.  I googled it, and this is the first definition that comes up:  insecure, precarious, imply a lack of predictability. That which is uncertain is doubtful or problematical; it often involves danger through an inability to predict, or to place confidence in the unknown. It made me stop and think, when has my life has ever been certain?  When my parents passed away, when my brother had a heart transplant, when a friend was diagnosed with cancer, these were all uncertain times.  Was I certain when I left a job of 20 years to start Rise Up?  Now I know this is not the same, but those have been some fearful times in my life.  So, I have to ask myself, how did I manage through those uncertain times, and I only have one answer. “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4). ” Yes, though times do seem scary, the emotion that I feel is not entirely unfamiliar.  A friend posted in her Facebook feed, “This is really hard.”  So many people responded to it that they felt the same way.  Our lives have changed. My house has turned into an office and schoolhouse.  The doorbell rings and we all freak out.  Why is someone at my door?  We can’t let them in.  Our neighbors have somehow become our enemies.  I know this is what we all are thinking.  This is not easy but what sustains me through this all is my relationship with Christ and the knowledge that ultimately, He is in charge.  I can surely do my part and stay home, but ultimately, I need Him right now more than ever.  I watched the Pope give a blessing to the world last Friday, and he said “Be Not Afraid,” that has to be my mantra.  I spoke to someone yesterday that said, “I have prayed more in the last two weeks than any other time in my life.”  What a great feeling to be able to turn to God.  Worship music is a big part of my prayer life.  The song Waymaker has been my go to during these uncertain times.  Here are some words I want to share with you from the song:

Way maker

Miracle worker

Promise keeper

Light in the darkness

You wipe away all tears

You mend the broken heart

You’re the answer to it all Jesus

Draw Near To Him
by Lola Martin

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“If only Jesus were here, He wouldn’t have allowed this to happen,” is a phrase I’ve been hearing go around a lot lately. I have never heard a bigger lie be told than this one.

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has brought mass destruction to our world. Whether that be physical, emotional, or spiritual, the suffering that our society is experiencing is so real.

People everywhere are desperate and are in need of great healing. They’re grasping for something, a glimpse of hope, something that will satisfy this desire to be seen and known during this time of uncertainty.

Brothers and sisters, this ache that we feel deep in our hearts is none other than a longing for Christ, Himself. They say every relationship, at one point or another, experiences what we call “ebb and flow.” This “ebb” is distance in a relationship, but it is healthy and all the while necessary for growth. Ebb brings us to a deeper longing, in this case, a longing for the Father and the total outpour of His love for us.

This catastrophic time in our world isn’t a time to fall away from God, but rather a time to draw near to Him. It’s in this time, where God is calling us out into the deep, to a life of complete trust in Him. He longs to be with us, even more than we long to be with Him. This time of solitude is a gift – the ideal opportunity to simply call upon His name and say, “Here I am.”

Sure, we can’t physically be present at the church. Yes, we’re away from our friends and community. But no matter how convicted we are that Jesus is “gone,” He has never left our side. The God that sent His Son into the world to perform miracles and heal people, then eventually suffer and die for our sake, is the same God who is present in each of our hearts in the year 2020. He hasn’t lost His power and He never will. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

That being said, why do we limit Jesus to church? He has the power to act beyond walls, especially during this time. So, I encourage you to beg Him to come into your heart. He will never force you, but know that He is knocking and patiently waiting for your “yes.” It can be scary, it can be uncomfortable, but the beautiful promises that Jesus has for us should far outweigh any fear that we have.

What are you waiting for? Draw near to Him all the more. He is with us.

Happy Happy Joy Joy
by Onie Lee

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I had lunch with a friend the other day, and the subject of how we seem to crave a fulfilled life through happiness came up. It made me think about happiness and joy, and how they are both great feelings to experience but are different even though some may think they are the same. I was talking with my daughter, and I asked her what she thought true happiness was. She turned her head for a minute “like mom, what are you asking me this time” and then explained it in a way that made sense to me. “Joy is something I can control, and happiness is dependent on other people and things I surround myself with.” I had nothing to say because she had nailed it.  Joy comes when you make peace with yourself and who you are, and happiness is reliant on the world we live in and the things and people in it.  Happiness can come when things are good. Have you ever heard someone say rate how happy you are on a scale of 1 to 10?  Happiness is a sliding scale and can change as the people, and things change around us.  We become happier when something positive happens or the opposite, afterward, when something not so great happens.  Joy, on the other hand, is a mindset or a way of life, and it runs deeper than happiness.  I know for sure that I find my joy when I open myself to the presence of God.  When I can feel God in my life, I have a sense of peace and a better understanding of who I am.  It can also be contagious; the joy I find in having a relationship with Christ can flow through me to others.  

We all remember Winnie the Pooh.  I want to take a moment to think about the differences between Tigger and Eyore. Tigger bounces through life never a worry in the world and is fun-loving, cheerful, outgoing, optimistic, and confident.  Eeyore, on the other hand, is pessimistic, worrisome, and depressing.  Now, these are both just characters in a book, but who would you rather be?  Eyore’s attitude keeps him from ever finding joy and has given up, but Tigger’s approach leads to a life of enjoyment.  I am pretty sure we would all choose Tigger, who is destined to lead a life of joy and happiness because he is at peace with who he is.

Sometimes I lose touch with how to cultivate joy.  I can easily become Eyore and get lost in my negativity and worry. That is especially true when I find myself drifting away from my relationship with God. God does not want us to be worrisome he wants us to be enthusiastic and at peace.  So when we can trust in Him, those feelings go away and allow us to be joyful. We all need to remember that we can control our joy. 

 “The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude.” William James American philosopher and psychologist

What Does Your Life Point To?
by Nancy M. Powers

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On June 24, 2019, Rise Up marks its anniversary! We celebrate the 4 year anniversary of the beginning of this exciting event ministry for our young church. And I love this date because it is also a day we celebrate St. John the Baptist, the precursor to Christ!

John the Baptist was a relative of Jesus. Remember Mary traveled to visit her relative Elizabeth who was pregnant with John. John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary approached, pregnant with Jesus. John was an all-in kinda guy. Approximately, in the year 29 A.D., John goes into the wilderness, dons clothes made of camel hair and eats nothing but locusts and honey (this is the garb of a prophet). It was a simple life, intentionally. A life without distraction because he had a job to do. A job that would require prayer, focus, courage and perseverance. John was to point people to Jesus Christ. “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” He preached repentance and shared the good news about Jesus!

So on this anniversary, it’s good for us to reflect on what our lives point to? Are we intentional in our prayer, focus, courage and perseverance in order to become who God created us to be? When people look at us do they see goodness, integrity, honesty? Do our lives point to Jesus Christ as the source and summit of our lives? It’s not easy! John boldly told Roman soldiers with a reputation of corruption to “Rob no one by violence.” He told tax-collectors who were known to be deceitful to “Collect no more than is appointed you.” He even opposed the unlawful marriage of Herod. I’m sure he was ridiculed and thought less of because of his views, but he was bold and he knew “one mightier” was coming to save us all.

This week think of ways your life could better point to Jesus Christ. It could be in the little thing like the way you talk about your faith. Speak bolder. It could be the way you strive to uphold christian virtue. Strive harder. It could be in the way you strengthen yourself. Pray deeper.

Thank you St. John the Baptist for the gift of Rise Up, a ministry pointing young people to Christ. Be our example and lets together build up our young church.

(A huge shoutout and appreciation to Sophia Lee whose original artwork of St. John the Baptist accompanies this blog. Thank you Sophia!)

Summer Trips!
by Elena Schiavo

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Have you ever been white-water rafting? Have you ever had adoration under the stars covered in mud? Have you ever been to a dance party with 2500+ teens all adoring Our Savior? If not, then you probably haven’t gone to Covecrest or Steubenville…

Hi! My name is Elena Schiavo and I’m here to tell you about my summer trips that I’ll be attending this summer! For most of my high-school years I’ve had the privilege to go to Covecrest and Steubenville many times and I can’t tell you enough how much I love them! Covecrest is a Lifeteen week-long summer camp up in Tiger, Georgia. Each week, there’s 8 or 9 parishes from around the United States that come together to learn more about our faith and to have fun with people who share the same faith as you do! The first day you get there, you are welcomed by College Students who get assigned to your parish for the week, leading your parish small groups, doing all the activities with you, and helping you on your faith journey. Throughout the week. we go on many adventures you wouldn’t even imagine doing…climbing mountains, having Mass everyday in the middle of jaw-dropping scenery, talks and endless dance parties, family dinners, giant games filled with mud, white-water rafting…just to name a few.

Steubenville is a 3-day weekend conference either led by Franciscan University or Lifeteen.  There’s about 25 conferences around the United States with anywhere from 2000-7000 teens attending. I’ve been to Steubenville Conferences 3 times now and I’m excited to say that I will be attending Steubenville Atlanta this upcoming July! The weekend is filled with Catholic Speakers who come from all over the United States to give testimonies and to teach us more about our faith. We have many encounters with Christ through adoration and Mass! You may have heard people say it’s like a big RiseUp, well I can surely testify that that is spot-on! If you love RiseUp, you will love Steubenville even more! A 3-day long conference just like RiseUp, with 75% more teens! My faith journey started at a Steubenville Conference and I can assure you that if you haven’t gone to it, you are missing a great opportunity! I want to encourage you all to take the next step in your faith and attend one of these summer trips, or any summer trips your Parish may be attending this summer!

“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

When can I go and meet with God?”    -Psalms 42:2

It’s been a pleasure sharing with you and I hope to see you at one of these amazing trips!

“The Real World” – Change
by Lola Martin

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“​Change.​ ” That’s quite a daunting word, if you ask me. A lot of us don’t like change, especially when it seems like the world around us is set just the way we want it to be. Sometimes, change is necessary. As you grow, the world surrounding you is growing as well. Keeping the same mainstream lifestyle can seem a bit outdated, don’t you think?

In life, we are not only meant to grow, but flourish. You’re probably thinking, “​Those two words mean the same thing!”​ Ah, they are similar, but not quite the same.

By definition, the word, “​grow​” means,
“​To undergo natural development by increasing in size and changing physically; progress to maturity.​ ”

The word, “​flourish”​ means,

“​To grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment.​”

Up until recently, I never realized that there was a difference between those two ideas. By the time you read this, I will be preparing to start a new journey in my life: college. This may be a journey that you are starting within the next few months or years. The one question I often get asked is, “Are you scared?” 99.99% of the time, I respond with great confidence, “​No​.” But if I am being completely honest with myself, I most definitely have fears.

I am most content with how I’ve grown in my faith throughout high school. I have become very involved in my faith community, something that holds a dear place in my heart. However, I fear that something so DIFFERENT and VIBRANT as college, may distort the idea of “faith” for me. This might be something different for you. You may be afraid of leaving your home, your city, your family, or your friends. Though I will miss all of those things, I am most afraid of being stranded from my faith.

I will never forget the time my parish hosted a visiting priest (I feel horrible for not remembering his name). This priest held a Q&A session for the youth at one of our youth nights, and I remember asking him (still being four years away from college), “​How do you keep your faith in college?​” I vividly remember his response, “​You must take your faith and own it.”​

“​Own it? What does that even mean?​” my fifteen year-old self thought. Over the years, I learned that there is only one person in charge of me: Me! In college, the “Real World” as they say, no one is going to be watching over me. No one is going to tell me to go to Mass on Sunday’s. No

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one is going to tell me to read Scripture or pray the rosary. I have the free will to do it (or not to do it) all on my own.

As I realized this in high school, I did everything I could to build a firm foundation for my faith. Holding myself accountable, I continued to attend youth group weekly, I started going to Mass by myself, and I began to read Scripture as often as I could. I made my relationship with God a priority. Before I knew it, I had made my faith my own. It wasn’t anyone else’s responsibility to tell me what to do with it. It was mine, all mine.

Here I am, just weeks away from college. I no longer fear for my faith, for it is my own. I am eager to start a new life, in my home away from home. What is the purpose of growing, if you’re not going to flourish? What is the point of developing, if you’re not going to develop in a “healthy or vigorous” way? Don’t settle for a mediocre faith. God is eager to know you… so let Him know you. This new change in my life, college, is going to be OKAY, because change is OKAY!

Whether you are years or weeks away from college (or currently in college), I encourage you to seek the campus ministry on your campus. I’m positive that almost every campus has one. If yours doesn’t (bummer), find the nearest one off campus! Do so, whether you are far away from Christ or hold Him close to your heart. He will always be close to you, regardless.

Whatever you do, don’t stop searching for what will fully complete your heart in the end. God matters, and you matter to Him. He should matter to you because He created you. He knit you uniquely in your mother’s womb, and He knows exactly where He wants to take you in this crazy world of ours. He wants to show you. He wants to make Himself known to you. God matters, and you matter to Him.

Embrace change with an open heart. After all, it’s God’s work at hand.

“​You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you​.” ~ St. Augustine.

Faith > Fear.

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