‘Tis the Season…

Well, it’s that time of year again. Time to make resolutions about what I’m going to do differently this year. No, I don’t mean exercise more, eat healthier, get organized, or other typical New Year’s resolutions. I’m talking about resolutions for the season of Advent.

You know,

  1. Don’t get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas
  2. Slow down and enjoy time with family and friends
  3. Focus on the real meaning of the holiday
  4. Spend time preparing for the birth of our Lord and Savior

But here’s my truth… I’ve already spent 7 hours shopping on Good Friday, umm, I mean, Black Friday. I’ve spent my whole Thanksgiving break decorating the inside and outside of my home. Our trees (yes plural) were up before Thanksgiving. And I’ve already spent a considerable amount of time obsessing over which perfect picture would make our Christmas card for this year.

So how exactly does one slow down, focus on the real meaning of the holiday, and not get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas?

I’m not gonna lie… it’s hard. From as early as October stores start showcasing Christmas decorations from wreaths and trees to giant inflatable snowmen; commercials are advertising the “must haves” of the season; and the streets are already donning twinkling white lights.

To get away from all of THAT, would be impossible. And honestly, I wouldn’t want to. I love seeing the lights and hearing the carols, even if it is on the tail end of Halloween. It doesn’t mean we have to avoid stores, watch less TV or close our eyes while driving down the road. (Please don’t!) Instead, consider the following ways to enhance this special time of year:


When my children were little, Santa Clause, flying reindeer, talking snowmen and a mischievous house elf, made up a huge part of our holiday. Why? Because it was fun! As a parent, you cannot deny the magic of Christmas morning when your children run downstairs with eyes as big as saucers when they see what Santa left for them. However, before one gift was ever opened, we found our family bible, and took turns every year reading the story of the birth of Christ. A simple but important gesture to help center and focus our day.


I love to entertain friends and family in my home. Now, my house will never look like Martha Stewart’s, and our food will never taste like Julia Child’s. But, what we can offer is an inviting, casual, homey place to share a meal, hang out, and enjoy fellowship with each other. When our company leaves, it is with strengthened bonds and the anticipation of when we will see each other again. Is this not exactly what God desires for us when we come visit Him in His house? To leave nourished, with strengthened bonds and the desire to see Him again?


Helping families who are less fortunate than ourselves, is not only rewarding but a responsibility. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required” Luke 12:48 For as long as Scott and I have been married, it has been our priority and pleasure to adopt a family in need. These families are selected and screened through a nonprofit organization. Our children have helped select and wrap gifts, as well as deliver them. It is a humbling experience to see so much need, right here in our little town.


Giving credit where credit is due, we started a new tradition a few years ago that came from a very dear friend. As one of their Hanukkah gifts, she gave her own children money, with the intent for them to decide how it should be spent to help others. I so loved this idea, we totally stole it for our own children. It’s one thing for mom and dad to always select a charitable organization to support, but children have their own ideas as well and mine chose causes near and dear to their hearts.


Last year I hosted my side of the family for Christmas. In total there were 15 of us. Typically we exchange gifts with everyone, followed by a big family dinner. We decided to change our focus a bit, as we couldn’t come up with 1 thing we needed or wanted. Neither could our children. So for starters, we exchanged homemade gifts. This required more time and thought, but the end results were treasures. We also arranged for all of us to volunteer at a local soup kitchen. Up at 5:45am and not back home until almost 1pm, wiped us out. But it had a profound impact on all of us, to truly be the hands and feet of Christ.


The hustle and bustle of the season is upon us. There are gifts to buy and wrap, trees to decorate, lights to hang, cookies to bake, menus to prepare, houses to clean, parties to host and attend, and cards to address. And I will do all of it. But if that is all I do, I will have missed the point.

For me, the birth of Jesus cannot just be one more item on my “To-Do” list that I cross off Christmas morning. Rather, He needs to be at the center of my list so that everything I do is with purpose and for His glory.

This Advent season as we all prepare, wait in hope, and yes, shop, let’s do so with Jesus on our mind, on our lips and in our hearts. In this way, commercialism fails, and CHRISTmas prevails.


Source: http://www.cleatsandhighheels.com/tis-the-...

XLT Atlanta

Once a month All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody, GA hosts an event called XLT.  XLT, or “Xtreme Life Teen” combines high energy praise and worship music, with a dynamic talk and powerful Eucharistic Adoration.  It is an opportunity for hundreds of Catholic teens, from all over the archdiocese to gather and celebrate their faith.   For those who have been on a retreat in the past, think an entire retreat weekend - in two hours. 

We meet at STA at 6:15PM to divide into cars and drive down together.  Eat dinner beforehand, or bring some money for Chick-Fil-A.  Otherwise, the event is totally FREE.  We’ll have you back to STA by9:30PM

Please have your parents complete this form and bring it with you. 

Join us for XLT!

Pope Francis and Modern Day Acts of the Apostles

We have been studying Acts of the Apostles in our Wednesday night bible study.

BIBLE STUDY - Wednesday nights at 6:30 in Alex’s office – all high school aged teens are welcome!!  Follow us on twitter: @sta_teen_bible

Ok, shameless plug out of the way, now onto my point.  Two thoughts have really stuck out to me during our bible study on Acts.

First - how similar the world in which the first missionaries lived in was to our world today.  For instance Corinth was one of the larger cities in the region.  It had two ports, which meant there was a large population of sailors and travelers from throughout the Roman Empire.  It was a melting pot of different backgrounds and cultures.  There was a large temple in Corinth for Aphrodite, the goddess of fertility; and there was a large population of prostitutes that lived in the temple that worked throughout the region.  Studying the culture of Corinth made me think about current day Las Vegas – you could probably find any and everything you wanted to do – good and bad.  What happened in Corinth stayed in Corinth!  

This backdrop was the site of one of Paul’s biggest successes in developing a new Christian Church.  Perhaps many people, weary from a lifestyle rooted in self-indulgent sins were hungry for something more.  For me, it adds a lot of depth to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13 – which may be one of the most famous writings about love ever written.  Perhaps, Paul was trying to help a community that had a very warped understanding of lust vs love understand what real self-giving love is.

The second thing that struck me how the first disciples allowed themselves to be led completely by the spirit.  They knew and understand that all that they did and said – all of their missionary travels and work was guided by the spirit; and without this spirit, they could accomplish nothing.  Through The Holy Spirit they accomplished many healings and miracles.  There were many conversions of hearts.  There were many stories of miraculous escapes from harm.  They trusted completely in the Spirit.

This point really struck home for me in the last week watching Pope Francis visit the US.  Here was our Pope – the successor to the Chair of Peter out visiting and evangelizing in the United States.  As he moved through the crowds, stopping occasionally to bless a baby, or a person with Cerebral Palsy; I was struck with the idea that Pope Francis is also allowing himself to be led completely by the spirit.  The impact Pope Francis has had on the people of our country (Catholics, Christians, and Non-Believers) made me think of the impact that the early Apostles must have had in the communities that they visited.  Perhaps, our society is deeply hungry for something more.  The thought also occurred to me while watching the crowds and the excitement surrounding Francis’ visit was this must have been the same kind of excitement that Christ himself experienced as he traveled during his ministry teaching, healing, and performing miracles.

The Acts of the Apostles is a book about the beginning of, and the spreading of the Christian Church to all the ends of the earth.  But by no means is it simply a historical book.  The story continues today – through the acts of current day apostles – like Pope Francis, who led by the Spirit, carry the message of the Gospel to a world that desperately needs it.  We too are called to carry this message forward – to be the hands and feet of God in today’s world.


Breakfast and The Word

All teens and their parents are invited to join us at the Corner Deli in Downtown Alpharetta, Wednesdays at 6:45AM for food, fun and fellowship. We will read and discuss the readings for the upcoming Sunday Mass. If you'd like to read ahead and prepare, go to the USCCB Readings page and click on the right day on the calendar.

We finish in time for students to get to school on time. Breakfast is included for teens; but please bring $1 to tip our servers.

Exciting Changes

Hey guys
This is not how I planned on announcing this, but I wanted you to hear it from me before it spread through the grapevine.

I was offered a job with Ascension Press. After a lot of prayer and discernment I decided to take it, so I'll be leaving St Thomas. It's an awesome opportunity for me and the family that I couldn't turn down. So on January 8th I will be heading to Philadelphia to start the next chapter in my life. Meghan and Noah will stay here to finish up the school year, then join me up there. I'll be at Mass this Sunday and next, and I can tell you more about it.

I will be back and we will throw a going away party later in the semester, so this isn't good bye yet. I love you guys and will miss you all.


Cosmos, science, and religion

As a kid, I was really interested with the universe; stars, planets, and all things out in space. That curiosity and fascination never ended. Even after watching the movie Gravity, and realizing how incredibly thankful I am for that particular law of nature keeping me grounded every day, I would still jump at the chance to travel up and out of the atmosphere in a space shuttle. So when I heard they were going to reboot an old show called Cosmos , and Neil Degrasse Tyson was going to host it, I was stoked.... and a little nervous.

Tyson is about as well known as one can be for being an astrophysicist. I mean think about it, can you even name another one? He is brilliant in his field, articulate, very witty, and a great choice to host a show on the cosmos. Unlike the old show's host, Carl Sagan, who was an outspoken atheist, Tyson claims to be agnostic, however Neil seems to me to also be a little more atheistic in his world views. The producer of the show, Seth MacFarlane, is an ardent atheist, hence my apprehension towards the reboot. Don't get me wrong, I believe atheists can produce excellent unbiased, work. For example, in spite of the controversy surrounding the recent film Noah , which was written and directed by a known atheist, I happen to like it, but that's the subject for another blog.

So Cosmos aired a few weeks ago, and since we don't have cable, I had to wait and watch the first show online. About half way through the premiere episode the show took some time to tell the story of a 16th century priest, Giordano Bruno, who was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Cosmos claimed this was because he believed the earth revolved around the sun. I sighed and thought, "here we go again."

As I continued to watch, the writers of the show grossly misrepresented the Church and drug it through the mud, telling viewers that:

"the Roman Catholic Church maintained a system of courts known as the inquisition and it's sole purpose was to investigate and torment anyone who dared voice views that differed from theirs. And it wasn't long before Bruno fell into the clutches of the thought police."


It's not the ignorance about the inquisition that is shocking here, it's the fact that all the writers of Cosmos would have had to have done is listened to historians who have spent their lives researching those times. Dayton historian, and Director of Saint Louis University's Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Thomas Madden writes:


"The Catholic Church as an institution had almost nothing to do with the inquisition," and that "One of the most enduring myths of the inquisition ... is that it was a tool of oppression imposed on unwilling Europeans by a power hungry church. Nothing could be more wrong. "  


Giordano Bruno was a priest who dabbled in astronomy, he was not a scientist. Yes, it's true that Giordano believed that the sun revolved around the earth, he also believed in multiple universes, and plenty of other theories based on his imagination and speculation, not scientific research. The truth is that even his wild scientific tangents were not what resulted in his excommunication. Giordano Bruno excommunicated himself by holding to heretical views like pantheism, the denial of the Trinity, and the denial in the divinity of Christ. By definition, you're not Christian if you don't hold to the basic tenants of the faith like the Trinity.

This whole section of Cosmos stunned me. It had nothing to do with the advancement of science, or the evolution of astronomy or astrophysics. All it did was use Giordano Bruno's story to represent the Church as an obstacle to the advancement of science and rational thought, a representation that could not be further from the truth. It saddens me to realize that there are still intelligent people out there who think that science and the church are incompatible.

Let me briefly list a few historical facts around the Catholic Church and the natural sciences:

  • Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), the originator of the heliocentric universe and its mathematical justification, was a minor Catholic cleric.
  • Nicolas Steno (1638-1686), a Catholic Danish bishop, is acknowledged to be one of the founders of modern stratigraphy and geology.
  • The Augustinian monk and abbot Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) is recognized as the founder of modern genetics.
  • Msgr. Georges Lemaître, a Belgian priest and colleague of Albert Einstein, is acknowledged to be the founder of contemporary cosmology through his discovery of the Big Bang Theory in 1927. And there were many other Catholic clerics who were integrally involved in the foundation and development of the natural sciences.

So again, I can't help but ask, why? Why was Bruno, who had nothing to do with the advancement or hindrance of science, the subject of a show meant to inspire us to dream of space, exploration, and the spirit of discovery? It feels as if Cosmos went out of its way to propagate an anti-catholic way of thinking. How are we back to the church vs science lie? No respectable historian of science buys it anymore, yet here we are with the reboot Cosmos , and Tyson at the helm, doing it all over again. I would expect this sort of thing from MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, but not Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Come on Neil you're better than this.  

It's not Blurry

Actually this post is by Steven Estes


I’ve heard the name “Blurred Lines” thrown around lately, and seeing that it has topped Billboard charts for a while, I looked it up and, unfortunately, listened to it. It does have an extremely catchy beat, and made me want to bust a move right there in my room.

But, then I read the lyrics . . .

This song could be the first thing I want to guard the entire public from more than Nicki Minaj (besides the entire genre of screamo music – sorry, personal opinion). However, given it’s place on the top music charts, I think that goal is a little hopeless.

The title itself is enough to make me uncomfortable. It sets the stage for the entire song which blatantly “blurs the lines” (yes, pun intended) between loving someone and using someone.

The track is about a girl who the singer apparently “knows” wants to have sex, but she won’t say it – so he tells her that’s what she wants and he goes on to call her an animal and portrays her as a thing to be used.

And we all know Miley Cyrus played right into the role of the woman in this song as she and Robin Thicke (the song’s artist) performed together at the VMA’s. To be honest, in the midst of this spectacle called a “music performance,” I felt bad for Miley. You see, people there were rejoicing . . . clapping, cheering, and waving their hands in the air . . . and when someone rejoices because of you, you feel good!

Yet, not a single person in the crowd, let alone the “men” on stage, were rejoicing in her dignity as a person. They weren’t rejoicing in her beauty as a daughter of God. They weren’t rejoicing in her as a woman to be respected and encouraged in living out holy femininity.

People were rejoicing because they saw her as an object to fulfill their disturbing desires for entertainment. Perhaps the mindset for this kind of rejoicing is reflected in a quote straight from Thicke about the song:

“People say, ‘Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?’ I’m like, ‘Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I’ve never gotten to do that before. I’ve always respected women.’”

Wow . . . and this is the song that was nominated for Video of the Year, Best Male Video, Best Collaboration, and Best Song of the Summer.

Perhaps the saddest thing about this song is it simply makes explicit what is implicit in so many other songs in our culture. Beneath catchy beats that can make you bob your head in the car (or dance in front of a mirror while no one else is home), is a message that can make us want to throw up . . . if only we would actually pay attention.

So, if you’ve heard the song, we can learn valuable lessons about ourselves by correcting some of its errors; but, if you haven’t, don’t worry! These points can apply to most of music we hear on the radio.


The song says “you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature” but . . . you are a person! Not an animal!

To be a human is to be “someone” not just “something.” The word “person” actually exists because humans couldn’t simply be understood as a member of a species. Persons are distinct from even the most complex animals because of an inner, spiritual life.

When God created man, He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). You do not just have a body, you have a soul connected with your body, and no other creature has this! (Not to mention God gave Adam dominion over the animals.) Mere animals only communicate with the physical world, but humans communicate with the physical and spiritual worlds – you are in a special relationship with God and have the honor of being in His image and likeness.

This means you were made with a tremendous amount of dignity! Every other creature is good only in relation to what they can provide persons, but persons are good in themselves. You were created out of love and deserve to be loved, nothing and no one can take that away.


To “use” something means that object simply becomes a help in achieving a goal. For example, if I want toast, I use a toaster; but my goal is not the toaster’s good, it is for me to eat – the toaster is simply something I use to accomplish the goal of satisfying my hunger.

Our culture often encourages using others sexually to satisfy our own desires – but persons can never be treated as objects to be “used.” Using another degrades them to the level of a “thing.”

Love is the only acceptable response to a person. To “love” someone means to act for their good in the relationship, not using them for one’s own desires. You are a person who deserves to be loved and respected above the desires of anyone else.


Pope John Paul II said, “The dignity of every woman is the duty of every man.” It’s degrading to a man as well if he doesn’t uphold the dignity of women – that she is a person to be respected for her own sake, not simply for her “use” to him sexually.

When you treat a person as if they are simply an object for use, that means you are also saying that you, as a person, are also an object that can be used for someone else’s pleasure.

God created all people equal and commanded that we love others as ourselves (Luke 10:27). Loving another as oneself excludes the possibility of degrading them to the level of an object to be used, and upholds the idea that both persons should be loved for their own sake.

As I said before, this song does openly what so many popular songs do subtly – it tells us we are animals and that it’s okay to use each other for our own pleasure. But you aren’t merely an animal. You’re a person with dignity! You are a person who deserves to be loved, never used, and it is your duty never to use another. It’s our duty to love each other selflessly and purely.

But don’t look to MTV for an example of that kind of love.

 By Stephen Estes 

What Pope Francis said about homosexuality

7 things you need to know about what Pope Francis said about gays

Monday, July 29, 2013 10:45 AM Comments (134)

Has Pope Francis taken a dramatic new tone on homosexuality? Has he broken with former Pope Benedict's approach? Here are 7 things you need to know . . .

The press is buzzing right now with claims that Pope Francis has taken a sharply different line than his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, on the subject of homosexuality.

Some are suggesting that the new pope has announced that "gay is okay."

What did Pope Francis really say, and how unusual is it?

Here are 7 things to know and share . . . 

1) Where did Pope Francis make these remarks?

He made them during an 80-minute interview with reporters aboard the plane returning from World Youth Day in Brazil.

2) What was he asked that led to the remarks?

We may not know exactly what the question was until a transcript is released, but apparently, he was asked about the reputed "gay lobby" at the Vatican.

More info on that here.

3) What exactly did he say?

According to the best current accounts, he said:

There's a lot of talk about the gay lobby, but I've never seen it on the Vatican ID card.

When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn't be marginalized. The tendency [i.e., same-sex attraction] is not the problem ... they're our brothers.

UPDATE: Here is a fuller presentation of the exchange. Big hat tip to Salt and Light!

The Question to Pope Francis from Ilse, a journalist on the Papal flight

Ilse: I would like to ask permission to pose a rather delicate question.  Another image that went around the world is that of Monsignor Ricca and the news about his personal life.  I would like to know, your Holiness, what will be done about this question.  How should one deal with this question and how does your Holiness wish to deal with the whole question of the gay lobby?

The Pope’s Answer

Regarding the matter of Monsignor Ricca, I did what Canon Law required and did the required investigation.  And from the investigation, we did not find anything corresponding to the accusations against him.  We found none of that.  That is the answer.  But I would like to add one more thing to this: I see that so many times in the Church, apart from this case and also in this case, one  looks for the “sins of youth,” for example, is it not thus?, And then these things are published.  These things are not crimes.  The crimes are something else: child abuse is a crime.  But sins, if a person, or secular priest or a nun, has committed a sin and then that person experienced conversion, the Lord forgives and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives.  When we go to confession and we truly say “I have sinned in this matter,” the Lord forgets and we do not have the right to not forget because we run the risk that the Lord will not forget our sins, eh?  This is a danger.  This is what is important: a theology of sin.  So many times I think of St. Peter: he committed one of the worst sins denying Christ.  And with this sin they made him Pope.  We must think about fact often.

But returning to your question more concretely: in this case [Ricca] I did the required investigation and we found nothing.  That is the first question.  Then you spoke of the gay lobby.  Agh… so much is written about the gay lobby.  I have yet to find on a Vatican identity card the word gay.  They say there are some gay people here.  I think that when we encounter a gay person, we must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good.  They are bad.  If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this point beautifully but says, wait a moment, how does it say, it says, these persons must never be marginalized and “they must be integrated into society.”

The problem is not that one has this tendency; no, we must be brothers, this is the first matter.  There is another problem, another one: the problem is to form a lobby of those who have this tendency, a lobby of the greedy people, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of Masons, so many lobbies.  This is the most serious problem for me. And thank you so much for doing this question. Thank you very much!

Original Italian at the link.

4) What does this mean?

The first part of the statement seems to downplay the who "gay lobby" issue. He's not denying that there is one there, but he's suggesting that the talk is somewhat overblown.

He then explains his approach to dealing with gay people: He distinguishes between their "being gay" and "being part of a lobby."

What he means by "being gay" is something he further unpacks.

In ordinary parlance, "being gay" can mean anything from having same-sex attraction to leading an active "gay lifestyle" to endorsing and advocating a pro-homosexual ideology.

The last of these would be functioning as a member of a lobby, and he indicates that this is not what he is talking about.

He then describes those he is talking about as people who "accept the Lord and have goodwill."

He then seems to further clarify who he is talking about by saying that "The tendency [i.e., same-sex attraction] is not the problem ... they're our brothers."

Taking his statements together, what emerges is a portrait of individuals who have same-sex attraction but who nevertheless accept the Lord and have goodwill, as opposed to working to advance a pro-homosexual ideology.

This would definitely include people with same-sex attraction who strive to live chastely (even if they sometimes fail).

It also, possibly, could include individuals who are not living chastely but who are not actively lobbying a homosexual agenda. It would be nice if he'd said a little more to clarify the point further.

5) What does he say about people in this category?

He says that he does not think he is in a position to judge them and that they should not be marginalized.

He also says that the mere tendency (same-sex attraction) "is not the problem," and that "they're our brothers."

6) How new is this?

Not very.

Disclaiming a right to "judge" others is something that goes back to Jesus. It does not mean a failure to recognize the moral character of others' actions, however.

One can form a moral appraisal that what someone else is doing is wrong (Jesus obviously does not forbid that) without having or showing malice toward them.

The statement that they should not be marginalized is similarly in keeping with the Holy See's approach to the subject, as 1986 Vatican document On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.

The statement that same-sex attraction "is not the problem," when understood correctly, is also nothing new. "The problem," as Pope Francis seems to here be understanding it, is going beyond merely having a sinful tendency--a temptation to which one is subject.

Obviously, temptations are problem, but if we resist temptation we do not sin. "The problem," on this understanding, is giving into the temptation and sinning or--worse--building an ideology around the sin and trying to advocate the sin.

Finally, the statement that "they're our brothers" is also no novelty. Christians, like everyone, have struggled with every sort of temptation all through history.

Same-sex attraction is just one temptation among numerous others, and the fact that a person suffers from this temptation no more deprives him of the status of being a brother in Christ than any other temptation does.

7) How different is any of this compared to Pope Benedict?

The press has been (as usual) trying to make unfavorable comparisons to Pope Benedit, noting that during his time the Holy See issued a document saying that those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies should not be ordained to the priesthood.

Pope Francis did not mention that document or its policy and so has done nothing different than Benedict there.

Neither are any of Francis's remarks contrary to the approach Benedict took during his pontificate.

In fact, Benedict himself (as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) was the signer of the previosly-mentioned letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, as well as the follow-up document on non-discrimination regarding homosexual persons.

So, as usual, the press is painting a false picture by contrasting the "good" Francis and the "bad" Benedict.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/7-things-you-need-to-know-about-what-pope-francis-said-about-gays/#ixzz2aYrf1cN7

All Saints Day

The Mass for the Solemnity of All Saints was very memorable and moving for me today; and not just because the Cathedral in Buckhead has the biggest Thurible I have ever seen. (A Thurible is the metal censer suspended from chains that is used to burn incense in at mass).  Seriously, this thing was bigger than a basketball; and it filled up the Cathedral with so much burning incense I could hardly see the priest.  But I digress.

The really memorable moment of the mass came during the homily.  The priest was talking about All Saints Day and how we not only recall the lives of canonized saints, but we can also honor the memory of those who went before us that served as examples for us and have provided spiritual inspiration in our personal lives; even thought they won’t ever officially become Saints.  At that point in the homily, the smell of incense which had been dispersed throughout the Mass, and particularly during the gospel acclimation in massive quantities (think forest fire) finally dissipated.  At that moment, my nose caught the smell of the perfume worn by an elderly lady seated near me in the congregation.  I have no idea what brand of perfume it was, but it was the same perfume I can remember my Grandmother wearing.

Immediately, the memory of my Grandmother came flooding back to me in a very powerful way.  I could feel her presence at Mass with me, and a deep feeling of peace came over me.  Truly an awesome moment.  I know in my heart that a large part of where I am today is because my Grandmother prayed for me (and for our entire family) throughout her life.  I know also that she continues to pray for us now in heaven. 

Try to take a minute today to remember those who have gone before us and who helped to shape our spiritual lives.  I am very grateful that I got to share a few minutes at Mass today with my Grandmother.  Thank you G.G. for your continued prayers.

I could write volumes about what a wonderful and faithful woman my Grandmother was.  If you are interested, here is a link to her obituary: http://affoplano.com/component/obituary/?view=detail&id=38.  The tribute at the end of the obituary was written by my brother J.D., who writes for the Associated Press in Topeka, KS.  It is by far more eloquent and fitting than anything I could write.




I was facilitating one of the confirmation small groups last Sunday.. and one of the questions posed to the group has been on my heart ever since:

What is the definition of truth in YOUR life?”

That’s an interesting way to ask that question.  Read it again.. and think about these next few sentences.

You may not have thought about the fact that TRUTH  to you may not be the same version someone else believes it to be.  The opposite of a truth is a FALSEHOOD.. and falsehoods occasionally masquerade as the truth.  For instance, some folks believe with their entire being that the United States never went to the moon and faked it.  Others believe that the Holy Bible is a work of fiction to be used for the purpose of controlling those with weak minds.  Many others believe that there’s no God at all.  The common thread here is that in all of these different examples and many others unmentioned someone believes it and calls it THE TRUTH.  That is, until they change their minds.  How many times in our lives do we cling to a falsehood so tightly, so desperately that it becomes the truth in our minds?  Secular society seems bent on making that happen.  Don't fall for the lies!  Don't allow popular culture to fool you!

We as Christians ascribe to a set of truths that has been unwavering and has never changed:

God is our creator, He sent His son to save us all from our sins by dying on the cross and rising again, and He will come again to gather his faithful and take us home.

How do I know this is the truth?  When I receive His Body and Blood in the Eucharist – I know.  When I directly experience His forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation – I know.

Do you believe this is the truth?  Or do you need more proof?  If you need to know more, I’d love to share with you what He has done in my life.  The other core members would love to share with you as well.  Come find us on Sunday – you know where we’ll be.

See you then!

-Neil D.

A very long post about "Why Lifeteen..."

Howdy everyone,

It's been on my heart for a while (ever since the end of retreat), so I thought I would share it with all of you. My best friends are all from STA, my mentors are mostly all from STA, my happiest memories with friends are basically all from STA, and I can't seem to forget all these special memories. I started STALT my sophomore year of high school, now I am twenty-one and a junior in college. Time has flown! So here is my thought process.... On Sunday the fourteenth of this month a student from Cambridge, Blake H, stood up in front of the congregation and told them how much of a life changing experience he had on retreat and right after church the first person he went to was his mom.. (sorry Blake if you are reading this) I noticed that he was crying and so was his mom...; before church even started I had talked to his mom and told her that I thought he had an awesome time and that he is a really cool person to get to know. ... at that moment when I turned to find them both crying, it touched me because I haven't had that experience in a while, nor have I seen the difference in me being a CORE member in the teens lives or even the cores. This struggling factor that I have been carrying around almost got me to turn away from the ministry. I questioned it, tried to get out of it by going to Allen A and telling him all of these things, yet Allen was like.. girl, please get the devil off your back and stay in this ministry. Hesitantly, I stayed in ministry and sign up for my first session talk and to this day I still have zero ideas on what I said and if it got across clear to everyone, but I felt as though it went pretty well, and CORE members came up to me after and said that I did well. So where am I going with this long spiel?  WELL, the next day I texted a handful of people that go or have gone to church and some of them were previous Teen Apostles as well. I asked them  "Why did you join lifeteen?" and if they were a T.A. I asked "why did you join the TA ministry?" The answers I got back were almost the same to one another yet different, thought processing is different... so duh. They mostly said that their family members looked like they were having a great time in LT and that they had made great friends, or that their friends were all going so why not. And after they all stated what got them there, they continued by saying... Shortly after starting LT with their family members or friends, they then found their own spiritual journey with God. I followed up with my later question and again most of them said "because everyone was doing it so why not.." Some others stated that they didn't know if that was what they really wanted to do but ended up joining becuase of others experiences in the ministry. Again, they all said after that that they were able to break away from the group with thoughts and worked on their own spiritual journey and started growing even more in their own faith and they found that they didn't have to be noticed as T.A's and that they just wanted to help others follow God, like they learnt to do.  I wasn't surprised by the answers at all.. because the question that came back to me from these people were "what made you start? Answer your own questions." Here it is! I sat on the opposite side of the church with my family every Sunday at 5:30pm and watched the life teen students. I saw them so involved with collections, lecturing, EMing, and even dancing to the music the LT band played. I yearned for that companionship. I wanted that Jesus high that they all seemed to have. So I dragged my sister, Michelle, to her freshmen opener... just so I would have someone to sit with... Luckily Rebecca J came over and talked to us; she showed us the dance moves and she comforted us by letting us know that we didn't look like idiots dancing and participating. I still kind of thought I was an idiot, so I didn't come back for a bit. We, my family, got a letter from the church in the mail about the confirmation retreat for myself and my parents quickly signed me up for the retreat. It was the same weekend as my XC meet in Florida but the letter said it was mandatory, so I went... It was the FALL retreat not the confirmation retreat... and it was the THING that ignited my spiritual wants and needs. This, plus the observations I made in church, made me join Lifeteen. I eventually was confirmed; I became an E.M, went to breakfast and the word, made a lot of cool friends and never looked back.  I was content; I was full. But, then there was an announcement given by Allison K, "If you love LT and want to take it to the next step, join the T.A. ministry!"  Well hello, I was good friends with the CORE by then and I was like okay I can do this, the worst thing they can do is say no. I had no idea what the ministry was, but I knew I wanted more; yes, I was full but there is always room for dessert ;). I went in for my interview, SO INTIMIDATING, and they we like "really pray and think about this before you sign this contract and bring it back if you really want to do this." I did really think about it, but some my friends were already in it and they had told me about their times in T.A. ministry. So I signed it and sent it back by the next weekend. BAM! I was now a T.A. and I loved it. I made great friends that first year but my best friends only came up the next year. On one retreat I was partnered with Ashlyn A as a prayer partner...I didn't know this girl, I hadn't really seen her and I didn't think we would have a great prayer relationship. Jokes on me, to this day we are best friends. We tell each other everything. We watch out for each other and now I get to hang out a lot with her sister, Sierra. The following retreat I was paired with someone new, Laura O. I did know Laura and we were friends, but I knew her as Chris's sister. Now she is Laura, not Chris's sister, and she is someone else I get to turn to when I need help. I love my prayer partners. I graduated in 2010 and I went to school at GPC and Allen asked me, actually he asked Ashlyn to ask me about it and snoop for him before he asked, to be a CORE in training and I said yes because this church was great to me. It's funny how things have actually turned out for me as an adult and it's because of the greatness in the LT ministry. I am glad I still get to be apart of something so much bigger then myself. I can only hope that whoever reads this finds what they aren't excepting; a huge relationship with Big G and relationships with pretty cool people in the LT program that will last forever. Sorry about the L     O     N    G  spiel but I felt as though some of you might need to hear it. This ministry is here and you CAN thrive in it; you can have a relationship with God, it's never too late. You can learn how to pray those awesome long prayers like Allen, Abbie, Rebecca, James, and so forth. My suggestion to whoever reads this, is don't ever expect things because when you expect things God might throw you in another scenario and your expectations won't be met. That only makes you upset, which is something God doesn't want. Keep an open mind and heart.... Don't join this ministry because of everyone else, come wanting to learn something new, come wanting to be filled up with God and his ways. You are LOVED and you are wanted in this ministry, just the way you are. We don't want you to change who you are, we just want you to spice up your life with Jesus (with us.)

Sorry for grammatical and everything else errors... (not the best writer)

Your sister in Christ,

Amy :)

By Rebecca Juneau

Ms. Swift Might Have a Point.

So, if you were asked, “What celebrity would you want to take dating/relationship advice from?” you probably wouldn’t say, “Taylor Swift”. I mean, the girl is famous for dating guys and breaking up with guys and then writing a song about guys and playing it for millions of people (including guys). But something actually struck a cord with me the other day as I was listening to her insanely catchy new song “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”

If you happen to have been living under a rock or happen to boycott Taylor Swift songs, the song is about a break up with a boy and when he asks if they can get back together she tells him in no uncertain terms that they are not getting back together. Like, ever. I mean, I don’t think I’m reading between the lines here. Her voluminous use of the words “never” and “ever” make it seem like she’s pretty sure in her decision. While all of us non-famous people may not understand why she would break it off with Jake (or whoever it was ;-)), I do appreciate the finality of it.

I’m sure that you probably have at least one friend or acquaintance that is perpetually breaking up and getting back together with the same person. It’s an ever-revolving situation where either you need a journal to keep track of it or you just give up on caring about what their relationship status is. Here’s what I think: that’s a problem.

All relationships end in one of two ways: you either get married or you break up. And the point of my article is not to tell you when, where, how, and why to break up or not break up. All I’m saying is that if a relationship does come to a break up, you should mean it. Nobody WANTS to break up and nobody LIKES to break up. But sometimes that happens. But if you break up with someone because they ate your last chicken nugget at lunch and then get back together in last period because those two hours without them were AGONY and you missed them soooo much, I’m just saying that you may not possess the best problem solving skills. There are many relationships that might benefit from communication, honesty, and conflict-resolution. So, all I’m saying is that the next time you want to “break up”, see if it can be resolved through honest communication and thoughtful attention to the well-being of the other person. And if they refuse to work with you, then maybe you should “never ever get back together.” Like, ever.

Take Care and Love One Another.


We are all the same.... in the eyes of God!

Two days a week I go to an elementary school for observation and I'm there for a the majority of the day. I have been placed into a classroom that has children with special needs... unlike most of the students in my class who have been placed into a general education class. Anyways, at lunch yesterday we all walked in and we went to our table, which is noticeably in an area away from the general education classes. But it doesn't even matter because my class doesn't enjoy eating in the cafeteria due to the noise and fast movements. I helped the two paraprofessionals with the children going through the lunch line and afterward when we were back at the table helping the children open their milk cartons and so forth, one of the paraprofessionals said "is it just me or were all those kids up there making fun of student I?" (For the purpose of this story I am not allowed to state any students name.. Legal stuff.) And the lead teacher automatically turned to the paraprofessional and said, "Yes, they are absolutely making fun of student I and they are doing it all the time." My heart dropped and I wanted to go up to all the general education classes and yell at them. I wanted them to know that these kids with special education needs are just as 'normal' as they are. Maybe they have different looking faces or do things that seem out of the ordinary, BUT they don't know that they are doing it!  My heart goes out to all the children with special needs and I hope all of you take the people that seem out of the ordinary under your wing and show them that you don't judge them. Jesus didn't judge the people with leprosy, he didn't just stand by and help the 'normal' people throw food down to them. He walked into their cave and cured them and became their friend. He loved everyone and he still does love everyone. He made us all and he loves us all the way we are!

Please go out with arms wide open and accept everyone for who they are. You can never change someone but you can give them the respect they deserve. God loves you and God loves me... But people need to learn how to love themselves and the others around him.

1 John 4:7-8, Matthew 8:1-4, Mark 1:40-45, and Luke 5:12-16

God bless!

Amy :)

A New Start

Now that we’re two weeks into school and life is settling into a routine, I find myself reflecting on what all has happened since that first day of school.  How well do we really know those around us, and do we take the time to get to know those around us? 

My year has begun with a student who is VERY challenging to say the least.  He is one of the most disrespectful and angry students I have ever had.  On the second day of school, he yelled at the cafeteria worker for serving food too slowly and then gets mad at me when I talk to him about respect saying “stop picking on me!”  This made me quick to respond and also get angry at him, leading to an endless circle of arguing.

With a start like this, I went to his teacher from last year to gain some insight.  And insight I received indeed.  I learned that his dad had completely abandoned him and his mom lets him rule the house.  All of a sudden, the pieces came together for me.  This student-who many would send to the office immediately- needs to know he is loved and I needed to know more about him in order to love him.

I challenge you to get to know someone new or know someone better.  How often do we judge because we don’t know the whole story?  We are called to love one another and live in communion with one another but this is impossible if we don’t take time to get to know one another.

It’s an on going struggle and I wish I could say that everything is fine and dandy, however, I can tell you that my attitude toward him has changed and each moment during our moment of silence I take an extra minute to pray for my challenging student!  Think about those people you know who need a “fresh start” and how you can reach out to them!

Job 33:29
“God gives each of us chance after chance.”

The Beauty of God's Creation

I was sitting out on our deck the other night, and the sky was just clear enough to be able so see some stars in the sky.   It took me back to our mission trip to Peru this summer.  One of the lasting memories from the trip was the amazing sunsets and star filled skies that we experienced from the top deck of our boat along the Ucayali River.  The thought occurred to me at the time that there in Peru, while we served the Shipebo people in the village of Santa Rosa; it was very easy to see the beauty of God’s creation in everything – the people of the village (especially in the faces of the children); my fellow missionaries (in their loving service); and most definitely in the natural beauty of Peru – most notably the fantastically colorful sunsets and the bright star filled sky at night.  I thought at the time that the stars themselves were like God’s presence in our world.  The stars are always in the sky, just as God is present in all creation.  But sometimes, it is too cloudy, or there are too many bright lights to be able to clearly see the stars in the sky.  In the same way it is sometimes difficult to see the beauty of God in all that we encounter in our daily lives.  We get clouded by the grind of our daily routines; and sometimes it’s hard to see God’s goodness in the dude that cuts you off when you are merging onto GA-400.  I hope that I will always be able to see a beautiful sunset, or a star filled sky and remember the beauty of God’s creation; even on the cloudiest of days.

Early Evening on the Ucayali River - Photo by Shannon Wynne

Early Evening on the Ucayali River - Photo by Shannon Wynne


Today while I sat in my first, two and a half hour, class, I was reminiscing on how we go through our day to day lives with all the struggles we take on without even knowing it, or even the stresses that we take on for the people around us that can't handle it on their own..... and I thought about how many times I take on too many stresses and the way my body reacts to it; I over think situations and because of that I get sick, break out, or get major headaches.. and then my thought process went to why can't I accept that God is there for me and he will take on my struggles. He wants us to leave our struggles and problems with him at the foot of the cross. My friend posted "Let go and let God" and this has stuck with me for a while and I hope that it sticks with some of you and that you will think about it and let God come in and help you.

Psalm 55:22  

"Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall."

1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”



Hope you all have a great week,

Amy :)

St Maximilian Kolbe

Today we celebrate the feast of St Maxilian Kolbe, a priest and martyr.  For some reason  his story has always touched me.  He literally laid down his life for another in Auschitz and willingly took the place of another man sentenced to die.  You can read more of his story here..  But get this...the man whose place he took went on to survive the camp and attended Kolbe's canonization...Pretty cool...and it gets better.  He always had a devotion to Mary and once had a vision of her which led to him becoming a priest.  He died the day before the feast of the Assumption, the day Mary was assumed into heaven, and a Holy Day of obligation.  Coincidence?  I doubt it.

Check out this 2 minute video about him.

This program is from ChurchMilitant.TV