Must-Watch YouTube Channels for College-Aged Catholics!

A little over three years ago, I published a post entitled “Must-Watch YouTube Channels for Catholic Teens”. It has been among my most-viewed blog posts since.¬†So I thought, well, why not make another similar post? In no particular order, I present to you my must-watch YouTube channels for college-aged Catholics!

  1. Father Mike Schmitz! If Father Mike isn’t a household name at your college’s Catholic student center, he should be! Father Mike is the priest at the Catholic Center at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.¬†He speaks at conferences (such as SEEK, a large conference for Catholic college students across the country), and he even has his own podcast. He comes out with a new video every Wednesday through the YouTube channel Ascension Presents. The topics are always super interesting– “Aren’t all churches the same?“, “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!“, and “Praying in a state of mortal sin,” to name a few.
  2. FOCUS! FOCUS stands for “Fellowship of Catholic University Students.” This organization has a bunch of wonderful videos. I particularly like the videos of the talks from SEEK, the aforementioned yearly national conference of Catholic college students. If you were unable to attend SEEK, you can watch all the talks on this channel! The conference attracts a lot of the classic Catholic speakers (Jason Evert, Father Mike again, Matt Fradd, Leah Darrow, Chris Stefanick, etc.), and in these videos they deliver messages specifically for our age group!
  3. Bishop Robert Barron! I mentioned Bishop Barron in my must-watch YouTube videos post from 2013, except back then he was Father Barron, not Bishop Barron! I was listening to Bishop Barron before he was cool. ūüėČ Anyway, I’ve long been a fan of how intellectual his videos are. I always learn a lot from him.
  4. Chris Stefanick! Chris Stefanick is another one of the aforementioned “classic Catholic speakers.” I think his speaking may be geared to a slightly younger audience (high school?), but I still find his videos relevant (he has spoken at SEEK before). He’s just a super dynamic speaker, and he has great messages too!

Have I missed your favorite Catholic YouTube channels? Comment below!

Advertisements

Dear Fallen-Away Catholics: 10 Things You Should Know About What You Left Behind

Dear Fallen-Away Catholics,

Perhaps you left the Church because you disagreed with some doctrine. Or maybe you just gradually stopped going to Mass. Or maybe it was some combination of the two. Either way, you’re gone, and we really miss you and wish you would come back.

I myself never really discovered Catholicism until my mid-teenage years. I was really a fallen-away Catholic right from the get-go because I come from a family of fallen-away Catholics. My attendance at Mass and CCD was very spotty growing up. Then, just when I was ready to completely leave the Church, I experienced a powerful conversion that changed my life through the grace of God.

I say this to highlight the fact that I have not always been a devout Catholic. In no way do I desire to talk down to you or judge you, because I know how you feel. I was there. With that out of the way, I present to you the top ten things I wish I had known about Catholicism earlier.

10. CCD doesn’t even scratch the surface.¬†Remember those dull days sitting in a church basement while some catechist read boring stuff to you and you wanted to be doing literally anything else? Well, that’s¬†not¬†Catholicism. Oftentimes, parishioners¬†are pressured into teaching CCD and they might not be super well-informed about the faith themselves. Further, the materials used in CCD don’t get to the juicy stuff. Our faith is not merely a moral system, which is what CCD often reduces it to. There’s so more to it. Dive in. For AP-level CCD, visit this site.

9.¬†The secular world biases us.¬†This happens subconsciously. How often do secular news sources take a certain slant on the goings-on in the Church? How often do teachers and even some textbooks reveal their own biases and opinions on matters regarding the Church? Pretty soon, you have this general sense that Catholicism is just plain wrong, but you can’t point to any super specific examples because everything happened so subconsciously. I know because that is precisely what had happened to me. Here’s a challenge: next time the Church is in the news, read a secular article about it from, say the New York Times, and then read an article about it from a Catholic news source, such as the Catholic News Agency. Note the differences in assumptions the articles make and the topics they choose to focus on, as well as general themes.

8.¬†You are allowed to question Catholic doctrine.¬†In no way do I intend to belittle Catholic doctrine. What I mean to say is that you can and should look into the doctrines. You’re smart and you want answers to why the Church teaches what she does. I didn’t realize the following for a long time: the Church actually has reasons for her teachings. Her¬†teachings are not arbitrary. Explanations of Catholic doctrine are widely available all over the Internet. Another important corollary point here: it’s okay if you have trouble accepting a doctrine. You can’t just flip a switch and say, “Yes, I accept this wholeheartedly.” You could say that, but it might not¬†be genuine. Just be open to the possibility that Catholic doctrine x is¬†true. You deserve time to research, think, and pray about it. God gave you reasoning capacities and a conscience; you were made to seek Truth.

7.¬†There are passionate Catholics out there.¬†It seems like a lot of Catholics are not passionate about their faith. Beyond Mass, participation levels in parish life can be quite low. With this sort of atmosphere, one can start to wonder if there’s something wrong with Catholicism. I come from one of the most irreligious states in the country, and even I’ve been able to find passionate Catholics here. There are many Catholics who are truly on fire for their faith, and the impact Catholicism has had on their lives is incredible: you just have to look in the right places. Go to a retreat or a Bible study, or volunteer at your parish. You’ll find them.

6. You don’t want to make your spiritual journey alone.¬†We live in the age of the “spiritual but not religious” movement. Those with this mindset reject organized religion and espouse a merely personal spirituality. Before I truly discovered Catholicism, I kind of had some sort of a spiritual life going on, and I didn’t think I needed an organization of some sort to help me achieve my spiritual goals. Then when I became an active part of my parish, I realized how much more progress I made when I was with others and under the guidance of the Church. When we want to make academic progress, we go to a college where we earn a degree by fulfilling the requirements of our institution and learning from those wiser than us. No one questions this. Likewise, when we want to make spiritual progress, we go to a church where we follow moral teachings to the best of our ability and learn from those wiser than us. Further, having Catholic friends will help you stay on the straight and narrow.

5. Priests are sinners¬†too.¬†Many Catholics¬†left the Church because of the sex abuse scandals and the Church’s response to them. Indeed, these scandals were a dark point in the history of the Catholic Church, and my heart goes out to all the victims. Naturally, people wondered, “How can we be part of a church whose leaders are so corrupt?” The sins of the priests who committed these crimes certainly delegitimized Catholicism in the minds of many. I’d like to make an important point here: priests are sinners too. In no way does that excuse their behavior, but it make it clearer how Catholicism can still be legitimate even when certain clergy have made serious mistakes. The Church is run by humans, and humans mess up. We can’t look at our clergy as gods on earth because that’s not what they are. Priest confess their sins to their fellow priests, by the way. Pope Francis goes to Confession too. Also, a side note: according to this article from the Washington Post, about 4% of priests are sex offenders. Again, I’m not excusing any of their crimes, but also according to this article, this proportion is consistent with estimates of sex offenders in other similar fields and other religions. What I mean to say is, it’s inexcusable¬†that sex abuse happens, but it’s not a problem limited to the Catholic clergy.

4.¬†The Catholic Church, est. 33 AD.¬†The Catholic Church is old. We have an extremely rich body of teachings that have been in the making for 2000 years. So many brilliant minds (St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!) have been refining Catholic teachings for many, many years. Catholicism is “the original,” so to speak. Here’s how it went down: Jesus started His Church in 33 AD (but he didn’t call it that–it was the group of all his followers). The Church flourished an grew under an unbroken line of popes, beginning with St. Peter, His disciple. Then in 1517, Martin Luther decided¬†the Church had been getting it wrong for 1500 years. (His disagreements went beyond the¬†corruption in the Church at the time–that’s something your high school history class doesn’t usually mention. He disagreed with many intellectual points as well.) With Martin Luther came the Reformation, which saw the creation of various Protestant denominations that changed doctrines that had been in place since the earliest days of the Church. Basically, if you want to experience Christ’s Church as close as it was to when He started it, you need to be Catholic. (For more insight into what the early Church was like, I recommend the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch (circa 110 AD), St. Justin the Martyr (circa 110-165 AD), and St. Irenaeus of Lyons (circa 140-202 AD), just for starters.)

3.¬†Catholicism is *really* intellectual.¬†Sometimes religion is viewed as childish because it seems to require adherents to blindly follow rules. Hopefully it’s become evident from my earlier points that this is simply not the case with Catholicism. We have a vast body of 2000 years of writings that explain why we believe what we believe. Some of these writings get into some¬†really¬†hardcore philosophy. To see what I mean, try reading St. Thomas Aquinas’s¬†Summa Theologica.

2.¬†Mass is really exciting when you know what’s going on.¬†Before I truly discovered Catholicism, what I hated most about the Church was the Mass. It seemed so boring! What I was really lacking was proper context. I didn’t understand that the whole Mass is really centered around the miracle of the Eucharist. I didn’t understand that the Eucharist is a miracle. I had no context for any of the Scripture readings. I didn’t understand that the Mass is centuries old. It was kind of like walking into a movie for the last 5 minutes and trying to understand what was going on.

1.¬†The Eucharist IS Jesus.¬†This is, I would say,¬†the most¬†important Catholic teaching. And somehow, I never learned this in CCD. (As I mentioned before, CCD totally does not scratch the surface.) As Catholics, we believe that the Eucharist really is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. At communion, we are literally¬†eating¬†Jesus. Upon hearing this, this sounds repulsive and somewhat batty. How could we be eating Jesus if communion clearly looks like bread? And do we really want to eat Jesus? Doesn’t that sound like cannibalism? There is so much to say about the mystery of the Eucharist. And, as I’ve mentioned time and time again in this post, we have 2000 years of brilliant minds that have given us the resources to understand why we believe what we believe. Below I’ve compiled some of the resources on the Eucharist that helped me the most as I was learning about this sacred mystery.

How what looks like bread can actually be Jesus

¬† ¬† Summary: Using Aristotle’s metaphysical theories (which were in place long before the time of Christ), while the Eucharist has the¬†accidents¬†of bread and wine, their¬†substance changes from bread and wine to the Body and Blood of Christ when the priest utters the words of consecration. Basically, the appearance of the bread and wine remains the same while what it actually is changes.¬†

The Biblical basis for the Eucharist

Summary: Jesus tells us to eat of His Body and Blood. When those listening to Him leave in response, He doesn’t stop them and say, “It was just a symbol!!” Instead, He repeats Himself three times.¬†

The Old Testament foreshadowing of the Eucharist

Summary: Jesus’s sacrifice mirrors the Passover sacrifice of the Old Testament. For Passover, Jews sacrifice a lamb and then eat it for the forgiveness of their sins. Likewise, Jesus sacrifices Himself for the forgiveness of our sins, and we eat Him, the new lamb.¬†

What the Church Fathers thought of the Eucharist

Summary: The early Church believed in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. 

Eucharistic Miracles

Summary: Sometimes, miraculously, the Eucharist visually turns into flesh and blood.

Anyway, it’s my hope that this post has sparked your interest in Catholicism. Catholicism¬†has made such a massive difference in my life for the better; let it transform your life too.

Yours Truly,

A Young-Adult Catholic

Mass add-ons

One of the many wonderful features about Catholicism is the fact that our form of liturgical worship is the same wherever you go. You really realize how wonderful this is when you’re a college student going to Mass both at school and at home. In the stresses of college life and the in the turmoil that comes with not really living in one place ever, it’s really nice to have the consistency of the Mass.

At home, there are three parishes that are very close by; depending on Mass schedules, I go to one of these three churches when I’m home. At school, I go to Mass mostly at the Catholic Center on campus, but I’ve occasionally gone to the parish in town, which isn’t too far from campus. As consistent as the Mass is at all of these places, at school I’ve noticed some “Mass add-ons”–some extra gestures that parishioners make during Mass in an effort to enhance their worship, many of which I’ve adopted because I think they enhance my reverence. (Interesting note: my home parishes are diocesan, whereas my school parishes are all Dominican–I don’t know if these practices are somehow Dominican or if it’s just a coincidence.)

  • Sign of the Cross during the Penitential Rite – When the priest says “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life,” many people make the Sign of the Cross.
  • Sign of the Cross when Gospel is announced – I’ve noticed a couple of people who, after tracing crosses on their forehead, lips, and heart, will make the Sign of the Cross.
  • Striking your chest during the Penitential Rite – I’m mostly noticed this one among the daily Mass crowd. Basically, some people will strike their chest¬†on “you take away the sins of the world” in the Penitential Rite. There’s one man at daily Mass who strikes his chest so hard that it makes an audible noise. That’s how I was first alerted to the fact that this was going on.
  • Bowing your head during consecration – The churchgoers at both my home parish and at my school parish usually bow their head at some point during the consecration of the Eucharist, but the timing, interestingly, varies. At home, people bow their heads when the bells are ringing. At school, people look at the Eucharist as the bells ring and then bow their heads after, as the priest is kneeling behind the altar.
  • Leaning over to pray during the presentation of the gifts – I once knew a priest who said that the presentation of the gifts was an ideal time to pray and make your own offerings to God — like maybe offering him your day or your classwork or whatever you have to offer him. I’m not sure if those who lean forward to pray at this point in Mass are making their own offerings to God or if they’re more generally praying; either way, it’s a thing.
  • Genuflecting before receiving the Eucharist – Most people bow before receiving communion, but I’ve noticed some people do a full out genuflect. Props. Your quads will be stronger than the rest of ours. (Haha; but seriously, that is super reverent and cool.)
  • Praying¬†the rosary throughout Mass – Not really sure how this one goes. For me, anyway, that seems like too much to focus on at once, but apparently some people are capable of this and find it enriching.
  • Kissing your fingers after the Sign of the Cross – Some of the students at the Catholic Center of Hispanic origin do this. I looked it up online one time, and it signifies kissing the cross–those who do this make a small cross with their thumb and index finger and kiss that after making the Sign of the Cross.
  • Kneeling to pray after Mass – The majority of people at home do not do this, but a lot of people do this at school. After the Mass is over and the priest has exited, many people kneel back down to continue praying.
  • Not using the kneelers – Some people go sans kneelers, particularly during Lent.
  • Receiving communion on the tongue – Comparatively more people do this at my school parish than at my home parish.

I’ve found that several of these enhance my worship. Maybe you’ll like some of them too!

Have you observed other cool or interesting Mass add-ons that I’ve missed? Comment below!

How to Wow a Catholic Girl

Hey guys! It’s your lucky day! As a Catholic female, I’m going to tell you what we like. Of course, I can’t possibly represent the entire Catholic female population, so consider that a disclaimer. This is a reflection of my and my friends’ opinions.¬†

What Women Want 

  • Someone who listens to them (and genuinely cares)¬†
  • Someone who makes them laugh
  • Someone who doesn’t put them down
  • Someone who gives them personal space (literally and figuratively)
  • Someone who supports them

What Catholic Women Want

  • Someone who lives his Catholic faith (This might just be me, but I notice little things too, like when a guy says “Shoot!” instead of a certain swear. I also notice when a guy says, “Oh my gosh!” instead of using the Lord’s name in vain. *swoon*)
  • Someone who is a “traditional gentleman.” Holding doors open, stuff like that. But not because you think the girl is too weak to do it herself–because that simply wouldn’t be true.
  • Someone interested in chastity. No hooking up, and nothing even remotely close to that.¬†
  • Someone who likes “good clean fun.” Board games, outdoor games, swing dancing (a Christian classic, lol)…
  • Someone who can admit they need Christ. I think men are sometimes pressured to act all tough and stuff, but it’s really more attractive for a man to depend on God.¬†

So, Catholic women, anything to add? Comment below!

Christian Music Recommendations

Lately I’ve been getting into Christian music. It’s a breath of fresh air not to have to worry about skipping over the swears in secular songs, ’cause Christian songs don’t have swears. Also, interestingly, Christian music puts me in a better mood. I never thought that I payed any attention to the lyrics of songs. But apparently I do subconsciously.

So, fittingly, I just got a request from a reader of my blog to do a post on Christian music recommendations.

Here’s my take on the Christian music world: Some songs are great, others do not agree with Catholicism. I’m going to give reviews of some of the songs I frequently hear on the radio.

Artist: Matt Maher

Song: Oh, Lord How I Need You

Catholic-Compatible?: Yep; Matt Maher is Catholic.

Artist: Plumb

Song: One Drop

Catholic-Compatible?: Couldn’t find out whether Plumb is Catholic, but the lyrics, which I examined, seem to be fine. I’m a big fan of this one!

Artist: Tobey Mac

Song: Me Without You

Catholic-Compatible?: Pretty sure Tobey Mac isn’t Catholic, but his lyrics seem fine. I’m a big fan of this song– it’s on my iPod.

Artist: Mikeschair

Song: All I Can Do (Thank You)

Catholic Compatible?: Seems to be. Two of the lines go: “Wanna thank You for the grace / I know I don’t have to earn.” Catholics and Protestants disagree on how salvation is obtained, but this a point we can all agree upon, that we are saved by freely-given grace. While Protestants believe that we are saved by grace given to us because of our faith, Catholics believe that we are are saved by grace given to us because of our faith¬†and¬†good works.*

Artist: Josh Wilson

Song: Carry Me

Catholic Compatible?: Yes. I see no problems with the lyrics.

Artist: Steven Curtis Chapman

Song: Long Way Home

Catholic Compatible?: Yeah! I really like this song too!

All in all, very few songs on Christian radio channels are hostile to Catholicism! Yay! Just be sure to always gauge whether what you listen to matches your faith. Happy listening!

 

*This paragraph was edited March 23, 2016 in response to an error caught by an astute reader, James Kelly. (Thanks!) Originally, I said that Catholics believe we are saved through grace and works. In reality, we believe we are ultimately saved by grace through faith and works. See this link for more info: http://catholicism.org/faith-and-good-works.html

How to Evangelize Young People

I’ve been on so many awesome retreats lately! For one of the retreats I was not only a participant, but also held a leadership position. Initially, I thought my duties as a leader might detract from my own experience. I learned that that is entirely untrue. My experience was enriched as a leader.

There really truly is nothing more fulfilling than helping others in their faith. I definitely wouldn’t have been ready to take on this role a couple of years ago. I am now at a point where I am comfortable enough with my Catholic faith that I am ready to share with others.

Here are what I see as the keys to evangelizing young people:

1) Be joyous. Others will wonder why you’re joyous and when they find out the cause of your joy is Jesus, they will want to find joy in Him too.

2) Be a people-person. Talk to tons of people and have a genuine interest in them. Try really hard to remember their names. Evangelization is all about relationships. Make lots of friends. They’ll see that you’re nice and will link that niceness to your Catholic faith.

3) Don’t be afraid to be goofy. Throw all self consciousness aside, especially in the retreat setting. Do the goofy dance moves that go with songs. Have an over-abundance of team spirit if you’re split into groups. Others will sense your enthusiasm and link it to a love of Catholicism.

4) Be devout in front of the Blessed Sacrament, at Mass, etc. Others will emulate this and understand the importance of God.