Wednesday, April 6, 2016

On Love Stories

                Several months ago, a few members of the Core Team here at St. Mary’s and I got in a slightly heated discussion about the merits of Disney Princesses. Several male members of our team took up the offense, while me and the lovely Sara Bushland, the defense. They claimed that all they were about was finding the perfect man, moving into his castle and living happily ever after. We countered that they were in fact about finding yourself, and also, that there is no truly great story in our world that does not feature love in some form or fashion. Even the dude-liest of dude movies has some semblance of love. Naturally, Sara and I emerged victorious.
                Thanks in large part to a weird memory that brings up the most pointless of thoughts, this discussion came up in my head during prayer recently. I was praying through the sorrowful mysteries when all of a sudden, it hit me. There is no truly great story in our world that does not feature love, and the greatest of stories our world has ever heard has love at its absolute core- the story of our Lord, on the cross.
                See, crazy as it is, I never really thought about why Jesus pushed through all of those stations we now pray through. I never really consideredwhy he endured the tortures of the cross. Ultimately, I already knew it was for my salvation. For the forgiveness of my sins, He took the weight of them onto His holy shoulders. I knew those things in my head. But what always stood out in my mind, however, was how wickedly high Jesus’s pain tolerance was. I was so focused on the pain He bore that I never truly saw the purpose of why he bore it.
                I admired Christ’s patience, His courage to go through with it all, even His humility in accepting the torment and torture of those He came to save. But what was revealed to me while praying the rosary and meditating on the same mysteries that I have a million times, is something I thought I already knew. True patience, courage and humility are born from the same mother- Love.
Love is something that seems so supernatural and yet so earthly at the same time. It is something no one but Christ and His mother can do perfectly, and yet, we all do to some degree love something, or someone. Love pushes us past our limits, to the very edge of human capabilities. Love has transformative properties in us. I think about those experiments done during World War II, how love shown through just holding an infant for fifteen minutes a day can make or break their lives. I think about how love can push mothers to lift cars over their children. And I think about how love pushed the God-Man to bear insult, injury and death with patience, courage and humility.
It was love that motivated Him to rise up out of the Garden of Gethsemane and face his captors, and love that helped Him forbear whippings that tore his skin to shreds. It was love that let Him sit in silence while he was mocked and crowned with thorns, and love that made Jesus stand up and continue on the road to Calvary. It was love that came pouring out when he begged for forgiveness of his own murderers. And it is love that will bear us through this world.
Without love, there are no truly great stories. Without love, there are no stories at all. Love is such a key element of the human experience, our hearts burst with it so much, that it inevitably pours out onto paper, into ears and hearts, who crave more of it. That is why the great stories all circulate around love. We crave it, because it is a critical and necessary part of us. And we will keep craving it until we find the source of all love and rely on it. God himself, in the Holy Trinity.
I now understand what Saint Augustine meant when he said “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Our hearts need His love, and they won’t rest until they do, so give your hearts a break already and find what you seek in Him. Become one of the great stories (we just call them saints). 

Keara King gets excited about the little things in life-like bagels on Friday, swinging on swing sets, and Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. She is a senior student at SFA, from Flower Mound, Texas. She is a social work major, and a member of the Core Team at St. Mary's Catholic Campus Ministry. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

"Riding With the Waves" By Sara Bushland

                Stressed. Once I heard that stressed spelled backwards is desserts, which is ironic because all I crave when I’m feeling overwhelmed is some fresh chocolate chips cookies with a tall glass of milk. Lately,
though, that word has become infectious and has caught on to the vocabulary of every person I have come in contact with. It seems that we have accepted stressed as the automatic answer whenever anyone looks depleted, lethargic, or even when they act out in an inappropriate manner. We are all just trying to work off some stress.
                In a sense, it’s great. We all relate to each other, and stress has a way of lighting the fire beneath our feet. Plus people in high stress scenarios tend to bond more easily with each other. Stress’ dark side is better known to most of us though. It can be debilitating, causing your heart to race and filling your stomach with those ghastly butterflies (definitely not the nice kind, we’re talking more like moths for most of you). Sometimes the pressure we’re constantly under can seem like tsunami waves that at any moment are going to crash down, annihilating you in one fowl swoop. Currently that’s the boat that I seem to find myself in and it’s exhausting. Luckily there is an answer, and you have all probably guessed it already, but I’m going to share anyway: the answer is Jesus.
                Okay cheesy, I know, but take a quick journey with me.
                You are sitting in a boat. It’s a small, wooden rowboat, but it’s a nice day and the small waves that you drift over cause you no alarm. Occasionally a larger one comes about, but it passes quickly and with it so goes your anxiety. You become comfortable and you drift asleep. You are awaken by a large crash and you look up to see that the sun has disappeared and in its place there are large menacing clouds, darker than sin, with cracks of lightning brightening the sky. This only shows you the deep water that sounds you crashing and cresting over in monstrous waves. How did this happen? Weren’t we just drifting nicely minutes ago?
                Raise the alarm, because with no land in sight and no one to contact, a full blown panic attack is about to begin, adding your own salty tears to this dreaded ocean of discontent. You frantically search around, in hopes that some miracle can save you. That’s when you spot Him. There He is, sound asleep in the back of the boat. Nothing seems to be alarming Him, and He doesn’t stir as yet another bolt of lightning crashes and the boat shakes filling with water. You rush over and hastily wake Him. You beg and plead, can’t He see you two are about to perish? Can He not save you?
                He slowly awakens and with one simple swish of the wrist and a small command, the waters calm and the sky is once again that beautiful, clear blue. He walks over to you. You are quite considerably a mess: your hair is out of place, mascara smeared, and let’s not even talk about your drenched clothes. He looks down at you with loving yet exhausted eyes. He gently reprimands, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (NIV Mark 4:40). He smiles warmly. Finally in typical Jesus style, He walks away (yeah, our Savior walks on water).
I know this is going to blow your mind, but the waves are your stresses and that mysterious Man is Jesus. Also a mind blowing revelation, this story is in the bible (I may have added a few adjectives though). The important thing to take away from it is that we are going to be caught in a few storms and sometimes it may even feel like hurricane season, but Jesus is always in our boat. Sometimes He gets a little sleepy and takes a nap, but He is not going to let us drown. With that knowledge we can take a deep breath. The stresses of life may try to knock us down, but with Jesus as our center we’re as sturdy as rocks, no storm can drown us.

                I hope the next few weeks, months, years are not too stressful, but when you get to that point when you feel like breaking, find Jesus sleeping in your boat. Go to mass, spend some time in adoration, blow the dust off your bible, or just meditate on the joys God has given you as well as the stresses. I promise they’re here and I promise, He is not going to let you drown. 

Sara Bushland is a Senior at Stephen F. Austin State University, currently serving as President of Kappa Upsilon Sigma. She is studying Rehabilitation Services with a Specialization in Orientation and Mobility, largely inspired by her youngest sister. Sara is fearless when it comes to grabbing people's attention on campus, loves coffee and braiding hair, and is pretty fond of #authenticrelationships! Feel free to e-mail her at!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

“Gifted and Talented” By Katherine Janusa

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein
I first heard this quote from one of my closest friends my freshman year of college. At first glimpse, this quote seemed strange to me, but little did I know it explained all the struggles I had been experiencing for so long. Rewind back to my elementary school days, I always was the smartest and best behave student in the class. To be second was to be a failure in my conceited eyes. Even in my dance classes, I was always the best. I was the teacher’s pet that knew every piece of choreography. I was always the student the teacher could presume to remember what we learned last week. During all those years of always being the best, it never once crossed my mind what it would be like to not be the best for once.
 In fifth grade, I got my harsh awakening when my dance teacher informed me that I would never be able to have pointe shoes because I was not “blessed” with good arches. She explained how I naturally had flat feet which meant I would never have strong enough arches to be able to dance on pointe. For the first time in my life, I was no longer the best. In fact, I instantly became the worst dancer in my class because I was the only one not “blessed” with good arches.  For the next eight years, I lived my life like the fish in the Albert Einstein quote. I spent those eight years of my life believing I was not “blessed” with any gifts or talents because I was being judged solely on my feet.
It was not until I staffed SFA Awakening 49 Retreat that I finally realized that how naturally flat my feet are has nothing to do with my gifts and talents. For this retreat, I served on cook staff even though I had no idea how to cook. The entire retreat I was separated from the rest of the staffers and retreaters because I was in the kitchen. Although I did not hear any of the speakers or activities, I had the most eye opening experience of any awakening I ever attended.
One beautiful part of our Catholic faith is the Mystical Body of Christ. This teaching of the church sometimes gets thrown to the side because it does not seem like that big of a deal. However, it really is an important part of our faith. This teaching shows how we are all connected and working together with Christ as our head. It is the teaching where we see how Christ uses each of us to help one another grow closer to Him. It is the teaching that explains that each of us are given our own unique set of gifts and talents to best help serve the world in our own way. If everyone was given the same gift of public speaking to spread the gospel, then who would be left to spread the gospel through medically helping those with illnesses?
My eyes were opened at this awakening because I realized just how important it was for us as cook staff to serve everyone at the retreat not by talking, not by praying, not by comforting, but by cooking. More specifically for me, I was serving every one at that retreat by sweeping the floors and doing the dishes since I did not know how to cook. It was humbling to see how even the smallest jobs can be so essential to bringing Christ into someone’s life.
That was when I realized, I really am a part of the Mystical Body of Christ. God specifically made me the way I am to be His hands and feet on earth by using my own unique set of gifts and talents to serve Him. This whole time, I had been so focused on not being “blessed” with dancer’s feet that I forgot to see the bigger picture. Some people are called to be Christ’s hands and feet by spreading the gospel through the beauty of their professional dancing on pointe; I however, was not. I was called to be Christ’s hands and feet in a different way. He used my passion of dance to help start the dance group of Dancers of the Son. He used my organization and passion of leading others to Christ to help coordinate SFA Awakening 50 Retreat. He used my love of writing and my own personal experiences to help me write this article to help you in your relationship with Christ. All of these things share one thing in common: I can do them with my flat feet.
This, my friends, is the beauty of the Mystical Body of Christ. God gave each of us a task to serve Him in our own unique way using our specially designed gifts and talents. All we need to do is stop comparing our gift of being a fish to our ability to climb a tree. Instead, we need to give ourselves completely to God and let Him show us how He made us special to do His divine will. Once you finally use your gifts and talents the way He has designed, it truly is amazing to see how God planned for you to be the hands and feet of Christ in your own unique way.

Katherine Theresa Elizabeth Janusa is a lover of the Catholic faith and all kinds of dance! She is an Elementary Education major with the hopes of working at a Catholic school one day so that she can share her love of the faith with her students. She has been dancing since she was four years old and will never let anything, even her flat feet, stop her from dancing. She hopes to learn how to cook soon so that she can actually serve God by cooking while being on cook staff at Awakening next year. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Pray without Ceasing

So, it is that time of the semester when teachers start piling on all the assignments, all the papers, and all the tests, and everyone is starting to get a little overwhelmed. In order to keep up with the extra homework, sometimes the first thing to go is our relationship with God. Now, I am not saying that instead of spending an hour studying for an A we should all go to the chapel to pray for an A, but just because our life is starting to get overwhelming does not mean God should go to the backburner of our lives. This leads to a dilemma; if we do not have enough minutes in the day just to study for all our finals coming up, then how can we have enough time to also spend with God on top of everything else in our hectic schedules?
One time, when I was actually paying attention in Mass, I heard the bible verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:17. It is only three words out of the whole bible passage that was read that Sunday, but they stood out to me an excruciating amount. Those three words were “Pray without ceasing.” When I heard that line I thought to myself, how is that even possible? At that time in my life, I was on the path of starting to pray more, but now God wanted me to pray without ever stopping? I had other things in my life to do other than just sit around and pray all day long. What about all those people who need jobs to provide for their families? God cannot possibly expect all of them to quit their jobs to go pray in the chapel all day, can He? Even priests and nuns cannot possible spend every waking second praying. They must take a break at some point. Don’t they? These thoughts all ran through my head when I first heard those three little words because it did not seem feasible. After contemplating how God could expect everyone to devout every second of their day to prayer, it hit me. God does not expect us to spend our lives sitting in a chapel praying all day long, instead He expects us to bring prayer to our everyday lives. Prayer is not about saying fifty Hail Mary’s and ten Our Fathers every day, it is about taking time out of your day to talk to God. It does not matter how you pray as long as you continue to pray though out the day; or, in other words, pray without ceasing.
So when life seems overwhelming and there is no way to fit a second of prayer into your busy schedule, approach prayer in a new way. On the way walking to class is the perfect time to talk to God and thank Him for the many blessings in your life. Sitting in the classroom waiting for the teacher to start class, you can say a quick Our Father. During the drive to work, turn off the radio and spend time in silence listening to the words God wants you to hear. No matter what is included in your busy schedule, even just taking five seconds to tell God thank you for this day is a way to begin focusing your life on praying without ceasing.
The best part about beginning to put prayer into your everyday life is that the more you start to incorporate prayer into your life in the little ways, the more naturally it comes to spend time with God in prayer every day. You start to form habits such as your walk to class every day; it becomes your “God Time.” You begin to find even more little and big ways to add even more prayer into your schedule. You start to really value your “God Time” as it is the little moments throughout the day that you get to be with your best friend, God.
The awesome thing about God is that He is there ready to listen to your prayer any second of the day. You do not need to wait until Mass at 5:05 in order to talk to Him. At three in the morning after your test cramming melt down, He’s there with arms open wide, ready to hear your prayer and comfort you. All you need to do is make the effort to start the conversation. A prayer that I love, called I Thirst for You, has the line said by Jesus, “You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day-standing at the door of you heart and knocking.” This line shows the importance of us praying without ceasing. Jesus is there with us through it all. Through all the study sessions, through all the heartaches, through everything we experience. So even though we have a million and one things to do, let us not forget to take moments out of our day to open the door to our heart and let Jesus in. 

Katherine Theresa Elizabeth Janusa studies elementary education at Stephen F. Austin University and has enjoyed being able to complete Practicum I with the first graders at Raguet Elementary this semester. She is looking forward to her internship next semester at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida. She loves being a member of Dancers of the Son and Dancers Against Cancer where she can use her passion of dance to help others both physically and spiritually! Her goals in life are to be a teacher as inspiring as her favorite television teacher Mr. Feeney and a Catholic writer as influential as her favorite authors Jason and Crystalina Evert. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

In Honor of 50 Days of Easter: Alleluia!

To be perfectly honest, Easter was never my favorite holiday as a kid. I mean, we didn’t even get school off, what kind of holiday is that? But even if I didn’t exactly get the wonder of Easter then, I could tell there was something special about Easter mass. Whether it be the brass quartet, the Easter lilies or the standing room only church, there was something I could not help but love.

Now that I am all grown up, I love Easter, and yes, a part of it is still the brass quartet, Easter lilies and standing room only church. But a newer love of mine is getting to exclaim Alleluia for the first time after over forty days. And exclaim it we do!

Sixty-four. That was the number of “Alleluia’s” printed in my parish’s mass booklet on Easter morning. And that is just the printed ones. If I had counted the actual total of “Alleluia’s” that were sung, said or proclaimed on Sunday, we would probably have reached well into the triple digits. With each one, I could practically see Satan getting kicked in the face by Christ’s victory, and it was awesome.

Alleluia is one of those church words though, that I have said my entire life, but never really knew what it meant. Here’s what it literally means- “Praise ye, Yah” or Yahweh. The word in its original use has been used to praise God since the beginning of the Church. Heck, Alleluia has been used to praise God by the choirs of angels since before time began! And when we sing it, proclaim it, say it, we are participating in the worship of the angels. It is the highest expression of thanksgiving, joy and most importantly, triumph. Triumph over death, triumph over sin and triumph over Hell. What reason is there to not proclaim it?

Well, in case you didn’t notice, Lent is one of those reasons. Why? Because Lent is a time, not for joining with the angels, but a time to focus on our sins, and repent, just so we can have the privilege of worshiping God again. And now the time has come to do exactly that. After waiting, and waiting, we get to join in the worship of the angels, we get to express our profound adoration and love of the Lord, as He loved us first. How freaking cool is that?

I hope that this profound joy of the Easter season makes its way into your heart, and your life. Have a happy Easter, and relish getting to join in the praise of the angels once again!

Keara King gets excited about the little things in life-like bagels on Friday and swinging on swing sets. She is a sophomore student at SFA, from Flower Mound, Texas. She is a social work major, and her dream is to work with children at St. Jude's.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Every great religion has had a form of the Golden Rule, “Treat others as you wish to be treated.” It seems easy doesn’t it? If everyone were to follow this rule, the world would be a happy place full of rainbows and smiles and nothing but warm and fuzzy feelings right? Well, not necessarily so. People would be a lot nicer to one another, but we’re all so different and we all want to be treated in different ways. Someone who is blunt and honest would rather be told straight up what they’re doing wrong, where if you were to do that to someone with a softer personality, you will probably end up drowning in a puddle of their tears. I’m not trying to say that this teaching is wrong, I’m just saying there are other factors which come into play. 

So let’s look at what Jesus said when the Pharisees tried to trick Him by asking which the greatest commandment is, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” That brought it back to my favorite of all topics LOVE - but I already wrote a blog about that for ya’all. This left me stumped on what to write about, but then I went to Mass, where I seem to find all the answers to my small woes. On Holy Thursday, I was sitting through the washing of the feet and the priest was giving a homily on Humility. The way he put it, humility is the potting soil in which love can grow! YES! I get to write to you about two of my favorite topics: love and humility!

Let’s focus on humility first. When some people think of humility, they tend to picture a meek, innocent little girl who is constantly placing herself down in order to praise someone else. That is not entirely accurate. Yes, humility is placing the thoughts and needs of others before your own, but that doesn’t mean letting their negative thoughts influence you or placing yourself down from the
viewpoint of confidence. Luckily, if we ever get confused on the definition of humility, all we have to do is open up the Bible. Jesus is the perfect example of humility. He literally loved us so much that He was willing to take on our sinful form and give us back our likeness to God. Then, as an even greater act of love for us, He took on the punishment for our sins (just a reminder - He had none). Through every lash of the whip and every jeering comment from the crowd, not once did He turn around and remind us this was for our salvation. He didn’t put down the cross and walk away, knowing that He was perfect and didn’t deserve this, He didn’t even think it. Instead, He followed God’s will for Him, and then as we drove nails in His hands and feet and lifted the cross, He asked for the forgiveness of all the wrongs done to Him. Because even though we tormented Him, He acknowledged that, we “know not what [we’ve] done.”

You’ll probably notice that I switched out the them for we. Yeah, it hurts to think about, but the crazy Jews weren’t the only ones who lashed the whip that cut Jesus’ flesh to ribbons, we’ve done it too. I think too often we forget about how we play our sins on repeat, to the point that it becomes like one of those terrible raps you can find on youtube that are all techno like. We get tired of repeating it to our confessor and even slightly embarrassed that we’re back again for the same thing. It’s exhausting, and sometimes we just don’t want to do it, kind of like how Jesus spent hours in the Garden praying that this cup passes from Him. But in the end we know God wants our unity with Him, so like Jesus we take up the cross and come back for forgiveness. That’s humility in our love for God, which is first on the list of importance. It’s giving up our own pride and confessing so we can have that great relationship with Him again. Humility with God is giving up our own plan for our life and allowing God to work His instead. It’s accepting that God knows us better then we know ourselves and knowing that His plan for us can bring us greater joy and happiness then anything we can even imagine.
So that’s humility to God, which is first, but what about humility and love to our neighbor? Well, once again, God came through to me in a homily. This time Father spoke of what a humble man looks like and instead of using Jesus as an example, he decided on a more achievable figure for most, and quoted C.S. Lewis. Here he describes a humble man,
“Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”
I personally think this is a lot easier to understand. Have you ever talked to someone and just felt that they truly cared about what you had to say? They didn’t just listen to your initial complaint or story, but asked for details as well. They wanted to know how it made you personally feel and what you were thinking about. They truly cared about how the event turned out and they just made you feel like you had been heard. I bet you felt loved when the conversation finally ended! This person never seems to complain, or if they do, they incredibly always have a positive spin to it. It’s like nothing can sink their boat, they were made to float.

This person is probably not caught in the bubble of self. That is my own creation. About a year ago, I began to notice a pattern in my life, when I was thinking about myself, I tended to feel worse, but if I simply thought about something or someone else (in a positive manner) I felt better. It makes sense and even seems so simplistic that it’s not even worth a mention, but I think sometimes we forget that
children are the happiest because they place importance in the simple things. For example, if I was home and I spent time thinking about how no one invites me out, I’m going to end up feeling pretty down. If instead I simply bite back my pride and invite someone out or rather in to watch a movie, I’m a much happier person. It’s literally that simple. The bubble tends to encompass us with self-doubt and pity and pride. But we have the power to pop it! The humble man isn’t thinking about himself at all. All he cares about is his love for each person that he encounters. He thinks less about himself and suddenly the pride fades and he gets the amazing opportunity to witness Jesus in all that surround him. I mean let’s be honest, once you truly listen and get to know someone can you help but love them? As soon as we love them we view them as God does, and that is the most amazing gift in the world.

To conclude, I challenge you. Pop your bubble. Let’s place down our pride for this week and invite someone out to coffee or lunch. When you’re with them, don’t focus on what you have to say, focus on the words that they are saying. Ask a few questions, and truly focus on getting to know them. Then see how great your love is for them. By doing this we are following God’s will: we are loving each other. 

Sara Bushland is a Sophomore at Stephen F. Austin State University. She is studying Rehabilitation Services with a Specialization in Orientation and Mobility, largely inspired by her youngest sister. Sara is fearless when it comes to grabbing people's attention on campus, enjoys making people laugh with her, and is pretty fond of #authenticrelationships. Feel free to e-mail her at!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Trust in God

Trust in God. How many of us really do this? When we say the Apostles' Creed in Mass we say we believe...we believe in Jesus...we believe in the Holy Spirit...we believe in the resurrection...we believe in life after death...but is believing and trusting the same thing?

I have had a pretty strong relationship with God for the past five years now, but every once in a while something happens that causes my relationship to go to the next level (I love it when that happens!). This time, it was the realization that I actually had zero trust in God. I would pray to God, go to Mass (even daily mass), I believed all the teachings of the Church, I believed that if I followed Christ's commandments then I would be able to be with Him one day in heaven; but honestly, I didn't trust Him with my life at all.

Personally, I do not like being in situations where I do not know the right next step, so I tend to plan things way in advance. I am one of those people that has to plan an entire conversation in my head before I can even say hi to someone (even though the conversation never goes as I planned anyways). Even my future career I had had planned when I was four years old - I knew I wanted to be an elementary school teacher, and have six kids (and what all their names would be).

Many college students are at that point in their life where they are starting to realize that the real world is coming quickly. We are starting to wonder if we will be able to find a job once we graduate and if we will ever find "The One" or if we will really be #foreveralone. I personally had been feeling those typical fears about planning my life after college and, as always, trying to plan my future.

About a year ago, one of my dear friends texted me a prayer I really needed to hear, and it literally made me cry the first time I read it. It was a beautiful prayer and I loved it. I continued to pray it often over the next year. Recently however, one part started to really stick out to me, "I want you to stop planning and stop wanting, and allow Me to give you the most thrilling plan ever existing–one that you cannot even imagine." This one line made me start to think. Does this mean I'm not actually supposed to be planning and worrying about my future? But if I didn't plan, then how would I ever end up where I wanted to be?

Luke 1:26-38 tells the story of the
Annunciation of our Lord, and Mary's
perfect "yes" - "May it be done to me
according to your word!"
These thoughts were in my mind for a while, then one day I was driving in my car and decided to turn off my radio and just pray for a bit. God and I had a fabulous, long conversation and then, at the end, one Bible verse was in my head: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to YOUR word." It was a prayer. It was a prayer that God wanted me to pray to Him. It was a prayer that would tell God that His will and divine plan for me came before my own wants. I couldn't pray it. I tried and tried, until finally I said it out loud. It was only a simple Bible verse I had heard a million times before so I was confused - why was it so difficult to say this one simple line?

I realized it was because I didn't have trust in God. I was so caught up in what I wanted with my life, that I forgot to ever ask God what He wanted from me. Once I finally stopped planning my own life, I was able to actually listen to the plans that God had in store for me. I could now finally start living as the prayer said "a more thrilling plan than I could have ever imagined." Once I finally stopped planning, I actually could relax because it no longer was about IF all MY plans would come true, but instead just waiting for the beautiful plan God had in store for me to happen.

So now I have a challenge for you. Give yourself completely to God. Tell Him, "I am your humble servant Lord, let it be done to me according to YOUR will." And then you will no longer have to worry about if your life will go according to plan but instead be able to enjoy the life that God already has planned for you.

Katherine Theresa Elizabeth Janusa studies elementary education at Stephen F Austin University. She absolutely loves Michael Bublé music and anything that's related to the 50's! She's super excited about co-coordinating SFA Awakening 50 this fall! She loves being a member of Dancers of the Son and Dancers Against Cancer where she can use her passion of dance to help others both physically and spiritually!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Momma Mary

As Catholics we have a very great and very deep devotion to Mary. She is an amazing figure in the church and she is quite a beautiful woman! Growing up though we get all sorts of questions about our faith; "Worshiping Mary" being a prominent one.

I spend my summers working for an amazing ministry through The Pines Catholic Camp in Big Sandy, TX.  9 weeks with upwards of 2000 kids….we get these question all the time. The campers that attend this summer camp are on fire for the Holy Spirit and crave to know about their faith. As counselors we have developed and passed down creative ways to explain the faith to these amazing kids in a way they will understand. This explanation isn't dumbing the information down, just explaining it in a way that make Mary approachable.

Growing up you we are taught to respect out elders and obey our parents. Easy Peasy. If you did this all would be swell and you probably wouldn't end up doing extra chores or sent to you room without dinner. When your mom asked you to take out the trash or set the table your probably did it…right? You listened and responded, and now that you are older the same thing probably happens. Mom calls and asks you to do something for her and almost immediately you do it for you want to please her. 

This is a very similar concept to the relationship between Jesus and his mother. We, as Catholics, do not worship Mary because we think she is mightier than God or even on the same level. We don’t worship her period. The only one to worship is the Holy Trinity(God is Jesus, Jesus is the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is God). We respect Mary because she is Jesus's mother and ours. What we do is pray to Mary for her intersession; we ask her to talk to her Son and pray for us as well. This is how I imagine a conversation between Mary and Jesus.
Mary: Jesus, my son, there is this lovely girl who is need of your help and she has asked me to talk to you and figure something    out.
Jesus: Yes mother, anything you say.
Short, sweet, simple, and to the point. Mary is Jesus's mother, and as I explained earlier respect and obedience to our parents is pretty high up there. That is who Mary is for us. She receives and takes our prayers to her son, who in return will always obey her. Regardless if you are praying to Mary, the saints, or God directly, instant gratification isn't a thing usually. There is still time needed for God to work out his plan, but know talking to Momma Mary only helps with hearing the answer.

So in now you know a nice nugget that is used to explain our relationship with Mary. Hope that it cleared the question up a little bit and put it in a way you can explain to others. Mary is here to love you. Let her, she can do some amazing things through her intersession!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Come to Me, All Who Labor and are Heavy Laden...

Today, I'm tired. Like the kind of tired where I can't get enough coffee in me (trust me, I've tried). The kind of tired where I legitimately have bags under my eyes (the concealer wore off hours ago). The kind of tired where I crashed on my couch when I went home for lunch. Actually, the fact that I went home for lunch speaks to how tired I am; especially because today I also feel heavy laden, as if every time I cross off something on my to-do list, at least 5 things get added. A busy couple of weeks at the ministry (combined with company in town for the weekend) have left me struggling a bit to get through it all.

So why am I taking the time to write this blog? Surely I have important things to be doing! Well, yes, many things are on my to-do list. But somehow, I have a feeling it will all get done when it needs to get done. Somehow, in the midst of this crazy day/week/month, I encountered the Lord in an unexpected way, and I couldn't help but share it with anyone who takes the time to read this blog.

My story of this unexpected encounter actually begins about a month ago, when I was discussing my prayer life with my Spiritual Director. I was explaining to him that I tend to fall into the same vacation trap as all of my students. You know the one - prayer is going awesome when you are living your normal daily schedule, but as soon as that gets interrupted your prayer habits go out the window as well! Prayer at home with my family is just a little different than it is when I spend 10-14 hours a day actually AT the Church, but I probably shouldn't be too surprised by that. We discussed briefly how I could build in prayer habits that would be easier to travel with me; nothing too intense, just something practical.

So I put my Bible on our dining room table; luckily, my roommates haven't complained. Actually, I'm pretty lucky that they haven't complained about the fact that I also have books lying on almost every surface of our apartment. They realized how nerdy I was a long time ago, and they just deal with it. So, with my Bible on our table, I began a morning routine of getting up about 15 minutes earlier and reading from the Gospels as I eat breakfast. Only today my morning was slightly different, so I read when I went home for lunch. It was so much easier to do when my Bible was just lying there on the table! (#forminghabits)

I'm currently reading through the Gospel of Matthew, and today I was in chapter 11, which ends with those comforting words of Christ:

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

I couldn't tell you how many times I've read that passage. How many times I've grappled with it ("Jesus, your yoke feels awfully difficult to me..."), yearned for that rest, or been beautifully consoled by it. But somehow I've always missed the context of these words. Always. Today, however, I caught it. I realized that in this passage Jesus doesn't suddenly turn to some really tired person and says, "Come to me and sleep." The words aren't spoken in a moment of compassion, or even teaching. Look them up and take note - they are spoken in the context of prayer and intimacy with his Heavenly Father. 

Let's look at the three preceding verses a little more closely:

"At that time Jesus declared, "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."

Here's the thing - there is no break between these passages, though we often treat them as entirely different stories. It doesn't say, "the next day, Jesus spoke to his disciples..." In most translations, the quotation marks don't even close until the end of verse 30. That means this is the same prayer. It means that when Jesus says to his Father "no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him," and then goes on to speak of the heavy laden laborer, he is telling his Father that those are the people he chooses. Did you catch that? In a moment of great intimacy with his Father, Jesus prays for those who labor to be brought to him

Jesus doesn't just have compassion on the tired and broken down. It's much more beautiful than that. Jesus yearns for those who labor. He prays for them. And not just that they would be comforted, not just that they would take on his yoke. In fact, the heavy ladened are the people Jesus most deeply desires to reveal his Father to

Listen, I get it. Sometimes the Christian Life seems difficult. Sometimes it feels like the yoke is hard, and the burden heavy, and we just can't seem to get the rest we need to deal with all the daily struggles. But when I read that oh so familiar passage today, I was immediately consoled by the prayer of Christ's own heart. Jesus was calling me to his Father. It was me he was praying for, yearning for, preparing an easy yoke for. And I promise you that as he sits at the right hand of his Father, Christ's prayer hasn't changed. So go to him, you who labor and are heavy laden, and experience the rest that Christ offers; let him reveal his Father to you.

p.s. Last night, I fell asleep at a Super Bowl party. I just thought I would add that to the list to prove how tired I am. I'm a pretty social being, but my friend has a really comfy couch that just eats you and begs you to fall asleep, so I couldn't help it. But go Patriots! I'm American, so I feel like my team won.

Jodi Phillips is a Campus Minister at St. Mary's Catholic Campus Ministry. Though she misses the cold and snow of Nebraska (also known as "The Good Life"), she counts herself incredibly blessed to be serving the students of Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, TX. Jodi loves to sing and dance and laugh, and looks for any opportunity to dress up and celebrate (especially if it includes a costume). Stop by the ministry if you want to hang out, or contact her at

Saturday, January 17, 2015

For the Better: What I have learned so far in 2015

On the journey home from SEEK2015, my friend for life and I talked a lot about how to apply what we learned at the Conference to our lives this year. I boiled it down to the six topics you see below, and I wanted to share it with all of you! I hope it will edify you as much as it did me. 

Can I be comfortable with Christ in my life? Hey Christ!
Add Christ to your daily vocabulary. I don’t have to go around like a Jesus freak to share him in my life and affect others’. If we can be so comfortable with telling our friends where we went to lunch and the last movie we saw why can’t we just as easily mention that we went to mass earlier? Or share the funny joke we heard in the homily? Or tell people we are going to the circle tomorrow night? Do not be afraid to use casual Christian language even with people outside of our typical circles. Be Bold!

Make work fun. Make faith fun. How? Do it with others.
I once heard a story: There was a man dancing on the side of a busy street and everyone thought he was crazy. Another man came to dance with him and everyone thought they were weirdos. A third person, a woman, came to dance with the two men. Everyone thought “Awesome! They are having so much fun!” Yes, they were a little bit strange, but how much fun is it to be different with real, authentic people who accept who you are? Now take that to heart on the matter of faith. Share your faith life with others and you’ll never be lonely or bored.

Pandas are flagship species, name an actual endangered species.
Pandas get all of the attention in the conservation world - and your heart - but in fact hold little to no essential value to the environment. They rarely even move. Yes they are cute, but other species like the Proboscis Monkey (look it up) hold a higher value to the environment and are actually critically endangered, but ignored. Transition! Choose a passion to follow in life where the market is not already flooded. Everyone jumps on the fads and cultural buzz words for about five minutes. Right now let’s jump on the (insert current cool thing to support) band wagon. Everyone wants to save pandas but are they the most important thing in the world? What about intrinsic truth? How are you working now for the truth and how do you plan on sharing the truth in the future and a lifetime? Have you considered mission work, working for a church diocese, and a vocation either to the religious life, priesthood or sacred marriage? Just think - you could work both for the church and important current issues!

Are you investing properly? Who is in your 401(k)?
Friends come into and leave our lives often, and what a blessing it is to have and have had them in our lives when we do. But are you investing as much time and energy with your own family members. Sometimes I offer too much to my friends (and Hulu) neglecting to call my brother, texting my sister hello in the morning and sending a letter to my grandmother. Family is forever, don’t forget it. Relationships aren’t easy but are you giving fair time to them. Maybe if you invest they will improve.

You are who you… eat?
Surround yourself around people that are positive. Make real decisions to determine who you want to be in your life. At the same time remember that you are the person that other people surround themselves with. Are you a good example for them?

Don’t pick up the phone it’s yo Mama! (I learned this a long time ago, but needed to share it due to immediate insistent need. So just do it already)
People of today are digitally addicted; fact. TV, Phones, (un)social media, Netflix, Hulu, texting, video games, candy crush, et cetera. Please, for the sake of humanity consciously take a minute to consider how much digital intake you are consuming. Could you be using your tech too much? Do you look at it unceasingly? Can you go an hour during class time without checking Facebook? Do you sleep with your phone? Could you spend your time doing something else? What would you do without your phone glued to your face you ask. What about studying, praying, serving others, spending time with others, working a hobby, visiting friends,and having a face to face conversation, antiquing, going star gazing... good heavens entertain yourself! Challenge yourself to cut the amount of attachment you have with a technology toxic relationship; you will be happier without him.
Good Luck!

BONUS SECTION! Choose 5! It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3. 
Last year I used this method to help me find tangible ways to grow spiritually, and I've decided to continue it each year. 
1.      Pick a virtue to focus on for the year; e.g. year of humility- Think as often as you can about your virtue and how you can apply it to your daily life.
2.      Then pick two- Pick two things to add to your daily life. Think outside the box, but here are some ideas: daily mass, daily devotional, rosary, smiling at everyone you pass, saying a short prayer while you wash your hands, et cetera
3.      Then pick two- Pick two things to eliminate from your daily life. You know what they should be... but here are some examples: cracking your knuckles, cursing, slothfulness, complaining, et cetera.
My best tip is for you to be simple, be genuine, but be serious.

Happy New Year! My prayer is that we will all grow closer to Christ this year. 

Andrew Wayne Lusk (known to Campus Minister Jodi Phillips as A-Dubs, A-Dub-a-Bub, A-Dubalicious, and so on and so forth) is a Senior at Stephen F Austin State University studying Art History. He is passionate about his faith, and loves to share it with others. His other passions, aside from Proboscis Monkeys, include making crazy exclamations ("What the hey-ho?!"), winning at Nerts (it's a crazy card game), and inviting people to fun parties at St. Mary's. Oh, and he has great hair. That's real.