Monthly Archives: November 2011

YOUCAT Series 1 – Introduction

Universal Faith will be hosting a series on the YOUCAT (Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church).

I thought I would begin by explaining what it is all about;

YOUCAT uses the “four pillars” format of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, while presenting the faith in a lively, visually appealing way. It fulfills Pope Benedict XVI’s desire to have a catechism that responds to the needs of today’s youth using a design they will find attractive and understandable. Pope Benedict has said of YOUCAT, “Study this Catechism! This is my heartfelt desire.” We think YOUCAT will become the “go-to” book for today’s Catholic youth when it is introduced at World Youth Day in Madrid. It will become an indispensible resource for every young person in your school or parish. (Ignatious Press).

To get the most out of this series it would be useful to have a copy of the YOUCAT. It is surprisingly inexpensive and can be purchased online at Amazon.com.

In the meantime here is a preview for you to read.

Next time we will start by looking at Part 1.

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Ad Majoriam Dei Gloriam

Established 1985

I was born to loving parents, a Baptist mother and Catholic father. I was baptized into the Catholic Church three months after my birth. I have been in Catholic school since 1990. I was an altar server because being an altar server was the cool thing to do (Oh, have times changed!). Even in my short stature, I took up the trombone. These two pursuits, serving at the altar of God and music, would weave back and forth throughout my faith journey.

My father’s mother, Mamere, as we called her, was the bedrock of faith for our family. She taught me how to pray and that I should never waste anything. She taught my sister and I that we should be grateful for what God has given us. In the early nineties, she contracted breast cancer. She beat it and went into remission, only to have it come back with a vengeance in 1998.

By then, I had entered into eighth grade at my dad’s alma mater, a local Catholic boys’ high school, run by the Christian Brothers and the Archdiocese of New Orleans. There was a vibrant faith among the students. Each day during the first half of the 1 1/2 lunch, a group of student would pray the rosary in the small chapel we had on campus. I decided to join them to pray for the healing of my grandmother. I would offer up that intention everyday. “For the healing of my grandmother …” August, September, October, November 22 she dies.

What faith I had was shattered. How could an all loving and merciful God, a God who promises to answer prayers not answer the one, THE ONE, I had made faithfully for four months! My trust in Him diminished to nigh on nothingness. I believed in His existence because He needed to exist for me to be angry with Him. My attitude toward life changed. It was useless to study, do homework, etc. I picked up the horrible habit of procrastination that still haunts me today. I started hanging around with guys who weren’t bad necessarily, but who were imbued with the ideals and desires of the world.

This apathetic malaise continued through my freshman year. I was of the impression that the only one I could trust from then on out is myself because if the most trustworthy being in all of existence is untrustworthy with regards to my prayers, why then should I trust anyone else?

The Holy Spirit had different plans for me. At the beginning of my sophomore year, at the opening school mass, three seniors gave testimonies before mass started. All three spoke of how a grandparent, upon them praying, e healed a various dangerous and/or terminal illness. In my hardened heart, these words could have hardened it even more by the vice of envy. Praise be to God, I was rather cut to the heart, feeling like those in Jerusalem hearing St. Peter’s speech on Pentecost.

I returned to the lunch rosary time. Different people were there but the time was the same. The guys there were all my classmates. They were praying the rosary, but decided to expand the religious activities to praise and worship as well. It was the same six of us so we decided to create a little youth group. In our masculine teenage zeal, we called ourselves the Righteous Soldiers of God (RSOG). For the first time, I had a community of faith, guys with whom I could share my faith. Two of these guys kept telling the rest of us about a ‘real’ youth group at their home parish. I procrastinated. I would now have to find a ride, or drive, it was no longer convenient to practice my faith. I now had to go out of myself. After months of them pressuring me, I finally caved into positive peer pressure. I went to what seemed to me to be the safest of the youth group events. It was night of praise and worship which I had come to love. They called it PHAT night, Praise Helps All Teens. That night I encountered Christ in adoration. I was overwhelmed with the power of the Holy Spirit. From then on, my life changed.

I became very active in the youth group, which was augmenting the Life Teen program. I had a broader community of faith to learn about the faith, to learn how to pray, to grow in relationship with God together. Many of these people, ten years later have remained some of my closest friends.

The summer between my junior and senior year of high school I went to a Stuebenville South Youth Conference. The atmosphere was exhilarating, but Saturday evening was another life changing moment. Bishop Sam Jacobs, the bishop of Alexandria, Louisiana at the time, came in to the 6,000 arena with the monstrance bearing the Eucharist. Music was blaring, all were singing. I would have  normally been right there with them, but my eyes and my focus were totally on Him. For two straight hours, I never took my eyes off of Jesus. It was at that point that transubstatiation had ceased to merely be a doctrine requiring my faith and became the center of my worship. Jesus is present in the Eucharist. Amen. I believe. My faith at the point became Eucharistic.

It was through the Eucharist that Christ called me definitively to His holy priesthood. The morning after that Eucharistic procession around the arena Bishop Jacobs asked for all men and women discerning a call to priesthood and religious life to come forward. I took a public stand to the feeling I had within me.

Throughout my senior year, I would return to that petition, “Lord show me your will for me.” “What is my vocation?” I would go in front of the Eucharist in the local perpetual adoration chapel a pray this prayer through a set of mysteries of the rosary. One particular day during the South Louisiana winter I was returning to this prayer in this mode, in a particular chapel. During my time of prayer, I had my eyes closed. The phone of one of the other adorers rang (please turn off your phones before entering into the adoration chapel). He went outside. I could hear him speaking. I didn’t know who he was but I was somewhat annoyed by his lack of charity for the rest of us adoring. Upon returning, he asked the person closest to the door, “Where St. Benidle?” Something stirred in my heart, no it burned. “Show this person where St. Benidle is. Have him follow you.” This is not a normal occurance for me but I can vividly remember having this intense drive to follow that command, so I did. I walk outside and ran to the car whose break lights just flashed. I knocked on the window startling the man inside, when he rolled down the window in full view was his Roman collar. It was a priest! I said, “Father, follow me. I know exactly how to get there.” I got in my car and he followed. When we arrived at the parking lot, it was packed. I knew the pastor because he was the chaplain at my high school. I proceeded to look for him so as to talk with him, but he wan’t in the rectory. He wasn’t in the office. The lights of the church were all off. Where are all these people? As I walk back to my car to go home, I run into Fr. Kyle. Fr. Kyle was the new priest at my parish. It was his witness of priesthood that first spurred my desire to pursue the calling. Double priest. I was starting to get the picture but the Lord knows my head is hard. We did the random run “what are you doing here?” thing. I told him my side of the story, but instead of him telling his, he invited me to come with him. We walked into the cafeteria of the school and in on a big white banner with black letter read the words, “Thank You for being our Priest.” It was a dinner thanking priests for being good priests. This was in late 2002. Earlier that year the molestation scandal in Boston had broken in the press. I universal distrust of priests had spread throughout the country. These lay people wanted to support the men who had brought them the sacraments, who had been there when they were sick, who supported them during difficult times in their marriage, who represented to them Jesus Christ.

It was eminently obvious to me at the point the Lord was calling me to the priesthood. There is much more to my story, but I have already gone over the self-imposed word limit per post. Until next time, peace be with you (and with your spirit).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAURA!

We’re taking a break here from our pre-launch posts to wish a happy birthday to one of our lovely bloggers! Happy Birthday Laura, we hope you have a blessed day and year!

Thank you for devoting your time to this mission and I can’t wait to work with you!

~Mariella

CHECK IT.

“Do not conform to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing, and perfect”

-Romans 12:2

My name is Andrea.  I can, in almost all aspects, be considered a completely average teenage girl.  I am of average intelligence, average appearance, below average height, and of fairly average talent.  I came from a Catholic family and I went to Catholic school for 9 years, but for most of my life I would have also been considered an average Catholic.  And an average Catholic, as depicted by society, is one simply in title and not in practice.  To me, Mass was “eh” and the Eucharist was a nice snack break amidst the “eh” and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary were also “eh” + a little bit of “whatever”.  There were moments where I felt touched by God, where I felt some glint of divinity in the Eucharist or in the stories of the Saints, but two seconds later I would see a cute boy and that precious glimpse of truth would go flying out the window.

It wasn’t until a little over a year ago that I made a pledge to take the “average” out of my life.  And it has been the most difficult affirmation I have ever made.  I believe the Bible verse at the beginning of this entry is so incredibly applicable to all young adults, especially myself.  Because truly, we are young ADULTS.  Teenagers are completely capable of making life altering decisions and of affecting people in profound ways.  It’s easy for us to avoid that fact.  What we do is beyond the scope of our individual personhood.  Our thoughts and actions not only affect ourselves, our friends and our families, but they affect the Salvation of the world.  We are that important.

Yes.  It just got real.

You might be thinking that I’m some intense zealot sitting in my bedroom chugging sacrificial lamb blood while watching EWTN and blasting Gregorian chant.  But like I said, I only immersed myself in the Catholic faith about a year ago.  And oh was it a rocky journey.

The story of my deeper conversion begins with my move from Minnesota to Alabama right before my sophomore year of high school.  And let me put this out there, moving in high school may not be a huge deal for a lot of people but I felt like it was literally the end of my life.  When I found out I was moving to Alabama I figured I would be living in Cowtown, U.S.A fighting off stray farm animals and racists.  But it turns out, the suburb I was living in was not much different than the one I had lived in in Minnesota.  Only the climate was much more humid, wood roaches were everywhere, and cicadas wouldn’t shut up at night.

My first year in Alabama was the most difficult year of my life thus far.  I had promised myself that I wouldn’t bother with making friends or being social because I was just going to leave and go back to Minnesota or somewhere that wasn’t Alabama in three years anyways.  But that didn’t quite work out.  Because every person yearns to feel united with someone else.  And I just couldn’t fight that desire to be desired.  And so high school turned out to be not that bad.  I was really involved with theatre, going to competitions and even writing and directing a play my senior year.  Theatre was my life in high school.  That was where I belonged and that was where I was accepted and praised.

Religion was not a huge priority to me at that point in my life.  However, it’s almost impossible to move to the South and ignore all of the raging “Bible thumpers”.   The largest Baptist Church in my suburb seemed like the size of the Mall of America.  And I’m pretty sure it had just as much parking.  Thankfully, I made friends with a girl who was in several of my classes who was very active in the local Catholic Church’s youth group.  So I thought hey, if everyone has their own little Church cliques, maybe I should join in on the fun.  So I went to a few events now and then but mainly just the “fun” stuff and none of the boring “Jesus” stuff.  That just wasn’t for me.  I was a free-minded artist.  I wouldn’t be one of those close-minded, ignorant Christians.

So for much of high school, if I went to mass it was solely for “God points”.  I figured, if there is a heaven, and if God exists I can just go to mass and daydream for an hour and then God would give me anything I wanted because I was being good and going to church.  FALSE.  That is not how it works.  If you think that’s how Church works, you are sorely mistaken.  I had to learn that lesson the hard way.

I cannot wait to continue this story but for now, I’m just going to have to leave you hanging because it’s 12:07 am and I have class at 9:oo am.  And if I don’t get what I deem an appropriate amount of sleep, I will cry.  I’m serious.  Sleep is important to me.

Okay so GOODNIGHT!

Be Christian First, Then Catholic

A few weeks ago my Youth and Young Adult Minister shared with us what he gained from participating with LA Catholic Congress last March. What he said completely changed how I viewed myself as a Catholic.

“Before you become Catholic, you need to be Christian. Being Catholic is your faith, being Christian is to be Christ-like”

Jesus left Saint Peter to build the church and from that point on the Catholic Church was born. But if we looked into the life of Jesus he didn’t preach about Catholicism but rather he shared a lifestyle. A life of being righteous and just. A life filled with love, compassion, service and selfishness. Christ taught us to be more like him, a lifestyle of saying good, doing good and being good.

So where does this fit in with our lives? Simple – it redirects in how we share our faith with the people we come across. Our actions are a reflection of what we believe. St. Francis of Assisi understood this concept in his quote “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” We should being living the Gospel because as Catholics we believe that God is present in the Word.

To share our faith is simply sharing Christ with others. So if Christ is Love we share our faith by sharing love to others. We are all called to live the Gospel, to be Christians or Christ-like. Our purpose is to share and receive LOVE not our religion. Choosing to be Catholic is the choice of the individual. To be Christ-like is the life Christ called all of us to accept.

Share Christ. Stay Blessed.

-jon jon-

Welcome to Universal Faith

It’s the 21st century, but despite popular belief…
Catholicism isn’t dead

It’s not a thing of the past. Just like it was alive a hundred years ago, with all the incredible saints and miraculous stories–so it remains now, in the twenty-first century, and in your life!

It can sometimes be hard to spot in this society of temptation. The love of GOD is still here, even if you sin and feel like everything is falling apart. Life gets in the way and all you can see are your problems. You can’t always feel the love of Jesus, and if you can’t feel Him, usually you’re not looking for the Church, His Bride. With all the distractions, it’s hard to find her–but she’s here to bring us comfort when He seems so far away, because He is never far away from her!

Even in our generation of rebellion and growing atheism, many Catholics remain. We’re universal. We bring the Church to life through our own stories, and help set the world on fire using the faith we already have. Hidden in the bustling world where we live, Christ’s Body continues her tireless work spreading the Gospel and telling people about the beauty of His Sacrifice.

And yes, some of us are teenagers. Believe it or not, a teenager can think it’s “cool” to swim against the current. A teenager will still clutch a Rosary in times of doubt. We haven’t all been blinded by the modern world, and we’ve recognized that our job is to show everyone who Jesus Christ was–and what He did to save us.

These are our stories, an attempt to rekindle our generation.

Universal Faith is not only a blog. It hopes to be a movement encouraging teens in the 21st century to pursue their calls to sainthood and holiness, using our lives and those of the saints as worthy examples. Joining with other Catholics, we hope to reach more people and unite the Body of Christ under one cause.

We also want to provide confused teenagers with accurate portrayals of the Church and her traditions. We want to show them ways to live the faith that will enrich their lives and open up their hearts to the LORD. We want to teach puzzling bits of history well, and leave our brothers and sisters confident that they’re heading in the right direction.

This movement is especially important to Jesus, because He wants us all to be saints, but the secular world has drowned this goal out of the way. We cannot be afraid or indifferent to this call. We can, and must try to become saints to others.

Universal Faith is less about converting other people and focuses more on reconverting yourself, in and out. We’ll begin with an inner examination, and review the basics of our faith. We’ll focus on prayer and find the easiest way for each person to communicate with Jesus. If the bloggers can’t pray, they’ll have trouble encouraging other people to. Finally, we’ll encourage our readers to examine themselves and surround themselves with holiness. It’s really not that hard.

Universal Faith wants to teach you the benefits of being a saint, and inspire you to live and spread the faith worldwide. Don’t let go of this treasure. This is our responsibility and something we should carry with joy and love. Let’s become saints together.

Universal Faith is set to launch on Christmas Eve. Until then, there will be a few pre-launch blog posts explaining what our mission is.

Reclaiming my Faith

If it wasn’t for my family, I know that I wouldn’t have any faith right now. My Mum was, and still is, a tireless example of what a good Catholic mother should be and my father introduced me to the wonderful traditions that the Church has such as the Latin Mass.
That being said, I still succumbed to the pressures of the world leading me to privatize my faith and in my 20’s I even stopped going to Mass altogether.
Looking back, I suppose one would say that I turned into a practical atheist.
Now I’m 35 and my husband and I have seven wonderful children that truly are each one gifts from God.
How did the Holy Spirit turn me around? I would say that people were praying for me, not just those here on earth but also those that have gone before us. Little by little He is opening my eyes to the truth. How great must the power of prayer be to be able to work such extraordinary things?
I will be writing a regular section for Universal Faith on the YOUCAT or Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church. I look toward to you joining me in the journey towards truth. Mary

I Am Third: An Introduction

If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.

—C.S. Lewis

Hello, reader! My name is Charlene Marie. I am a 22 year-old resident of beautiful British Columbia, Canada.  Currently a newly-transferred Political Science/Sociology student in university, the blessing of a post-secondary education will most likely be my main vocation for the foreseeable future.

I am a cradle Catholic and was active in the Church even before I emigrated from the Philippines. My family’s dedication to experiencing the wholeness of Catholic life, on top of the genuine joy my parents showed while doing good works for God, got me to enjoy it too. I accompanied my mother with little to no complaint (excitement, even) to commute to the Redemptorist Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help for novena every Wednesdays, despite the discomfort of being uncomfortably surrounded by over 2,000 other devotees to the miracles and intercessions of Mary during Baclaran Day. I would sleep in my father’s arms while both my parents continued to lift up prayers in front of my grandfather’s tombstone overnight during All Souls Day. I would even wake up at the crack of dawn to walk with my parents to church to observe the Simbang Gabi mass novena during Advent.

(I really suggest you click on the links for even just a tidbit of insight as to what I am talking about.) :)

Praise God that my family’s connection to Catholicism did not wane upon moving to Canada when I was 7. After settling down, the four of us became active at the same parish we still attend. We barely ever sat/sit together! At one time or another a family member altar served, sang in the choir, taught Sunday school, or administered the bread and wine.

I am now currently a Program Head Volunteer for Youth ANCOP (Answering the Cry of the Poor) in my area, a youth social justice ministry affiliated with ANCOP International. I serve youth through conducting workshops, creating awareness of the state of our world and that of their surroundings, empowering our youth to change the lives of the poor, and planning mission trips for them to build homes for the poorest of the poor in the Philippines.

For quite a few years now, the Lord has really stretched my heart to not only love Him through the personal relationship I strive to foster with Him, but to help change the livelihood of fellow brothers and sisters whose basic needs are not being met: the poor, the hungry, the ostracized, the abandoned. I felt a strong calling to help feed, clothe, and shelter those who need it most for “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for Me” (Matt. 25:40, NAB).

If you actually read  through the entirety of this bio, I firstly applaud you. Second, I extend a virtual handshake to you. I could only share so much in this, my first entry. Thank you for allowing the written expression of my faith to accompany you on your own faith journey and/or search for Catholic information.

God first, others second, I am third.

May God be praised.

FYI About Guest Bloggers:

Once a month we’re going to have a guest blogger from another denomination pitch in to promote Christian unity, but all the guest bloggers who were added as authors until now will have to wait their turn to be added again. It was getting crowded and the blog isn’t even out yet! O_o Thanks for the enthusiasm, guys! God Bless You!

~Mariella

BIO – “Jon Jon”

Life is a Be-You-Tiful Struggle: God has played a major role in our life, in helping all of us shaping us into the person we are today.

Howzit everyone! My name is John “Jon Jon” Ulep and I’m an active Catholic in my church along with the Youth and Young Adult Ministry, known as the A.G.A.P.E. Ministry. The AGAPE Ministry founded in Honolulu, Hawaii is the largest Religious Program in the state. I’ve have been actively involved with the ministry since my Sophomore year in high school in 2000. I’ve taught classes, organized youth and young adult retreats for different parishes, shared my testimony to hundreds of people. November 3, 2011 I was named Co-Director of the AGAPE Youth & Young Adult Ministry, Hawaii, along with my friend Kyle.

I am eager to share my experience and knowledge with people. I hope working together and sharing our story with bring our Catholic community closer and become more active in their faith.