August - 2014

ARTICLES

Remember Your Testimony and Your Toothbrush
Joe Philip
Holy Detachment
Scott M. Anthony
Telling My Daughters They're Beautiful (Theology of the Body for Toddlers)
Luke Arredondo
Living Your Resume or Your Eulogy?
Tony Agnesi
1 of 4 articles

Remember Your Testimony and Your Toothbrush

Joe Philip

Do you remember when you went on a retreat that changed your life? Do you remember the shock, which was followed immediately by joy, when you realized that the God you always believed in turned out to be real? Do you remember when the Holy Spirit broke through layers of apathy, guilt, and confusion? Or how about when the Sacraments suddenly became real channels of freedom and healing and not just a routine? And remember how excited you were to share your story with others?

Whether it is the first time or the fourth time, this is what thousands of high school teens experience every summer when they attend one of the many summertime Youth Conferences hosted by the Franciscan University of Steubenville. They meet the Divine Author and then they want to share the story of how His love changed things! Having taken teens for the past five years, I have witnessed again and again how this dynamic of meeting and sharing creates disciples and spurs on the mission of evangelization.

Those of us who have met Jesus are reminded again of how beautiful our Savior is and how much He wants to do new things in our lives. The witnesses of these teens also become the reason why their friends will end up going to a Youth Conference for first time next year. And going home empowered to love, apologize, forgive, and even obey their parents (who says God doesn't exist!), these teens become the reason why there are always plenty of adults who are eager to attend as chaperons.

Young people who share their testimonies evoke and provoke those who listen. They trigger memories and cultivate cravings. We call this intentional effect the action of the Holy Spirit. And speaking of the Holy Spirit, you should know that as you read a few of these witnesses here that the Spirit works just as powerfully through print, too. So, let’s be honest—you might as well start packing now for your first (or fourth) Steubenville Youth Conference next summer. Remember to pack light, expect great things, and bring your toothbrush. Somehow, everyone forgets their toothbrush their first time.

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"As soon as the Friday Adoration began, I was ashamed of myself. I felt like I didn't belong there worshiping Jesus. I felt distracted and lost. When I talked to my friend, Alec, he told me that it may be just because all the weight of sin was still on my shoulders. I hadn't gone to confession yet. So the next day I went, and it was probably one of the best confessions I've ever had. As we entered into Eucharistic Adoration the next night, I felt prepared. As I closed my eyes I told Jesus I want to be open to whatever He wanted me to experience. As soon as I finished my little silent prayer, I felt something. It came in pulses, and I could feel my body swaying. After a few seconds of that, I rested in the Spirit. It's hard to explain the experience but I remember hearing my friend say to someone who was worried, "God is taking care of her."  After I heard that conversation I saw a light and heard a voice say, "It's time for you to wake up" and I did. As I looked around, my friends were having similar experiences and I couldn't help but smile because I know God is doing something great with them as well. It is an experience I'll never forget!"
- Kayla S., High School Senior
 

"During my time at Steubenville I experienced many things, but one in particular that struck me was Saturday Holy Mass and Father Mike Schmitz’s homily. He pointed out how many Catholics go through the motions during Mass without realizing what they are experiencing. He went on to explain the Mass and made me really see what a gift God gives us in the Eucharist and how realizing that suddenly changes everything. Since that day I have challenged myself to be engaged during Mass and it has truly been amazing! Being aware of God's presence is making me a better person! So I challenge you to open your heart during Mass to really realize all the gifts we are receiving from God during that time."
- Haley C., High School Senior

"I had been struggling in my faith a lot. I considered not getting the Sacrament of Confirmation before I went to the Steubenville Summer Conference in June. To be honest, I was forced to go so I wasn't all that happy to be there, but Eucharistic Adoration changed me. I had rested in the Spirit twice on Saturday night adoration. The first time, I was completely aware of what was going on around me. I could feel people around me trying to move the chairs and themselves out of the way. The second time, however, I had sort of a 'vision.' It was Jesus and I sitting in a field just talking to me. It was amazing. The last thing he said to me was "This experience will help you grow in your faith." Then he got up and walked away. I can't explain all of it, but I know I want to be confirmed and I am going into our Confirmation program more excited than ever!"
- Kylie C., High School Sophomore

 

"For the past few years I have struggled with accepting and returning love. Especially God's love. I understood that He loved me, but I wouldn't allow Him to love me. The first night of LEAD, the leadership program that prepares high school students to grow in the faith before Summer Conferences, we had a time of Adoration. As I was kneeling before Christ, I made a real decision to trust God. I asked Him to show me a love that I could have faith in. Almost instantaneously I had a sense of calm come over me. I was filled with a feeling of pure joy, it was indescribably beautiful. For a moment God gave me a glimpse of His unconditional love; it didn't matter that for years I had been putting up walls between us. It just mattered that at that moment I was open and willing to trust Him. This gave me such a strength and desire to return not only the love of my Heavenly Father, who is ridiculously in love with me, but also to those He blessed me with here on earth."
--Maria G., High School Senior

 

"Going into the Steubenville Conference, I left behind an issue between my father and I. We had a good relationship, but it became rough and I pushed him away. My dad was chaperoning at the Conference, and I was not happy about it. I wanted to keep my distance. Friday Eucharistic Adoration had me moving somewhere else just to praise God. Anywhere away from my dad was good. Saturday came, and with that, Adoration. When the time came for it, I asked my dad if he was staying in front of me. He said yes. Frustrated, I went outside and prayed for guidance from God. I went back inside, and sat down. When Adoration began, I went in front of my dad, and to the side, completely vulnerable. I began to sing and cry. I started to shake uncontrollably. I knew then God was there. He called me not to be afraid of my own father. My dad and I still have a rocky relationship, but we are working it out through God, for God never fails."
--Jack D., High School Sophomore

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JOE PHILIP is a theology teacher and retreat coordinator for Powers Catholic High School in Flint, Michigan. He holds his M.A. from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. He and his wife, Tara, travel and share their love for Jesus and the Church by leading and speaking at retreats. They are happy parents to a baby girl. Follow Joe on Twitter @joephilip101.

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