During the first week of J-term, 21 Loras students came with us to our national conference in Chicago, SLS18 (Student Leadership Summit). We were together with over 8,000 others from 410 campuses across the US, England, and Austria. Over 4,000 confessions were heard. Over 300 priests attended. There were 18 Bishops in attendance, including 1 bishop from Ireland. (By the way, he has a fantastic accent.) What would bring so many young people together? Jesus Christ and His Church living out His mission to make disciples of all nations.
I thoroughly enjoyed SEEK17 last year, but SLS was different. At SLS, we not only heard inspirational speakers, but we were prepared for lifelong Catholic mission with practical ways to grow in discipleship. Each day we met with our small group. Those who went to the training sessions taught their friends things like how to pray and intentionally pursue virtuous friendships, lead a Bible study, and invite someone into discipleship. Seven Loras women were in my small group at SLS. All of them have taken strides in their faith since coming back to campus—coming to Bible study, Mass, and Eucharistic adoration regularly. This beautiful growth is even more than what we might recognize. It’s not simply nice; it’s magnanimous. They are deeply loving a few, who in turn deeply love a few more friends to intentionally make disciples of all nations. I do not say these words lightly.
Before this spring semester began, our team captain Ben Bering asked our missionary team, how do you remind yourself that you are taking part in salvation history? Do you realize that YOU are being invited into salvation history? The history of souls being saved. What is your answer to this invitation? Even not giving an answer is an answer. The saints were men and women who gave Christ and His Church their everything. They started out as little people, and they were the best of friends! They were invited into the greatest story of all time—that of the salvation of souls, which God invites us into and we cannot do alone.
When you dive deep into Scripture and the Tradition of the Church, you will find extraordinary friendships taking root in seemingly ordinary lives. St. Therese of Lisieux was raised by two saints, Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin—two saints who were parents striving to answer God’s call. Jan Tyranowski was a lay man who heard his priest say, “It is easy to become a saint.” From there, Tyranowski read the works of Sts Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross and grew in spiritual wisdom. When the Nazi regime took many of the priests from Poland, he formed a Living Rosary group. Out of the 11 young men who became priests from that group, one was Karol Wojtyla, later known as Pope St John Paul II. This story was told at SLS this year and it reminds us that every person has a role to play. One quote from a previous FOCUS conference that inspired me to strive for sainthood came from C.S. Lewis: “How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been; how gloriously different are the saints.” Do you wish to be monotonously alike or gloriously different? What would you hope to be the patron saint of? Volleyball, horses, converts and their families: these are a few on my list. The Lord uses the things we enjoy and the things we struggle with to sanctify us. From our weaknesses, we can recognize that we must rely on His strength and persevere in running the race here on earth, in order to attain the “imperishable crown” in heaven that He eagerly desires to share with us.
Jim Caveziel, the actor who portrayed Christ in The Passion made a surprise appearance at SLS as well. I didn’t even know he was going to be there, but he reiterated this point again: “You were not made to fit in; you were born to stand out.” Saints stand out, yet they do so with great humility, because they are responding to a higher call that God speaks into their hearts. He speaks it to your heart. I invite you to sit for five minutes in silence and authentically ask Him to make this call clear. Then, I invite you to make this moment a habit.
At SLS, one Loras student, who encountered Jesus in a radical way and now desires to be boldly Catholic, said that she realizes “the necessity of the universal call to holiness,” going beyond living her faith privately. She wishes to invite others into her daily encounter with Christ. Notice, this is daily. We all are called to live a life of holiness, and our response has serious effects on our world today. Even if we don’t see the fruit of each little yes right away, our God is faithful. He uses every little sacrifice and prayer we give Him. We are like children first learning to draw and giving our dad the scribbles. Our Father delights in those scribbles and we must continue to grow in those scribbles until they become great works of art for Him and with His help. So I invite you to talk to someone who went to SLS and see what little ways they have grown in friendship and prayer, and what their hopes are going forward.
Due to technological difficulties, articles from the Feb. 15 issue were posted late. The Lorian apologizes for the late update.