Mass: Our Weekly Miracle

By Cecilia Elizabeth Linares Castillo

I‘ve always thought that I had never experienced a miracle in my life, until I realized all of the times that I have been witnessing the greatest of miracles— at the altar.


Sometimes we caught ourselves going to Mass, because it’s part of our routine, for obligation or just because it is what we have done all of our lives. But of course, it is one of the biggest mistakes. Mass should be lived and prayed deeply. On Earth, it is the biggest opportunity for us to become one with Christ.


Not going to lie, I used to fall asleep during Mass most of the time— can you imagine? How embarrassing! (I’m sorry, Jesus). If you don’t realize what is truly occurring at Mass, it can seem boring or tedious at times, but once you experience the flushing love of the Holy Spirit present in it, you will never go back.


I realized that I’d had the wrong approach when I started falling in love with Jesus, and I felt like something was missing in my intimacy with Him. A video appeared on my YouTube home page, “Pray the Mass like never before.” I watched it twice because I was overwhelmed by all of the truth in it that I did not yet fully understand. The more deeply I delved into it, the more I realized how much I was losing by putting so little into the altar.


How can I be so blessed that God reveals all these things to me so I can live a life being His little beloved girl? Me, a sinner? But, what can I do in my littleness? All this things started coming to my mind and I felt that I wasn’t enough, that I wasn’t able to comprehend all that was happening in the Mass, that I couldn’t give to God what He deserves.
But when the infinite mercy of God came into my life, I felt loved; I felt chosen. I was reminded by Him that He wants my heart, and that all I have to offer is because of Him, and that is enough. He never puts expectations on us, because of His merciful, loving and sacred heart.


Think about this, how blessed are we to be convocated in honor of the Holy Trinity for its worship! Mass is unlike any other service: It’s not about us— we go to fully worship a triumph God, and we are purified by the Eucharist and by so many prayers, as our angels on Heaven descend to offer our prayers to the Father.


During Mass, the altar on Earth unites with the altar on Heaven and they become one, we got many key parts in the holy celebration where we pray, listen and learn the word of God, especially where we worship the word made flesh. Today, I´m not going to go in depth about the parts of the Mass, but I highly encourage you to research about it, it’ll open your heart to encounter Jesus in the most amazing way.


In the Eucharist, the promise made to the apostles, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20) is fulfilled. I am forever thankful to be a cradle Catholic, and I feel so blessed to be able to have all of this fruits that God has to offer us through the Church.


Living the Eucharist and knowing what it truly means is the best way I’ve ever lived my life. I’m only 20 years old, and I still got a lot to learn, but my heart is full of joy to be part of the greatest sacrifice offered to the Father, by Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

As Saint John Vianney said:

“If we knew the value of the Holy Sacrifice of Mass, we would put our greatest effort to assist to it.”


Mass is Heaven on Earth!

Deepfake: When the Nudes Aren’t You

By Rebekah Hardy

A few years ago, I was sitting at my teacher’s desk while my students took their religion test. I was going back and forth between grading papers and checking my email when suddenly I saw one, then ten, then twenty friend requests come in to my Facebook inbox from men that I didn’t know. I checked my page to see what was going on and if I was getting spammed. When I checked my inbox there were messages… gross ones. 

I didn’t know what I did to bring all of this creepiness into my life. I ignored the messages and just deleted them thinking it was some kind of awful mistake that all of these people were messaging me. The next day I received even more friend requests and then finally a message that made my heart stop. Someone was kind enough to send me screenshots from a couple of popular sites… it was a picture of my face photoshopped onto a naked woman’s body with all my contact information listed. I couldn’t believe it.

I was struck with absolute horror and my stomach turned in disgust that someone would do this to me. I had never taken a naked picture in my life! I felt so shameful knowing that all of these men in my friend requests were looking at a picture of someone who they thought was me. People were lusting after this picture of someone they probably imagined was a consenting adult. I was horrified at the thought that one of my students, my boss, my friends, would come across this and how much damage that would produce- even though it was fake. 

I felt like it was real. The person who sent me the screenshot to me said they were so sorry someone had shared my pictures… but they weren’t even mine. Somewhere in the world, however, there was someone who did take that picture of herself. My heart broke at the thought that she was also being exploited through this. I felt for my poor sister in Christ.

For weeks I would report these pictures and they would be taken down only to pop back up a couple of days later with more raunchy captions. I felt like I wasn’t safe when I would think about the ill-intentioned people who might be on these sites seeing the place I worked next to the naked picture of “me”. I would have nightmares about them showing up at my work and following me through the parking lot. Out of fear for my safety, I told the priest who was my boss at the time about what I was going through. Thanks be to God, he took me under his wing and immediately reached out to the police in our school district to report everything that happened. He told them to keep an eye on me and make sure I was okay- and told me to call him if I ever felt unsafe.

That same day I went to my hometown police station with my dad and received so much kindness and concern from them as well. I got several calls from the lieutenant who took down my story over the following days to ensure that all was well and to give an update of the status of things. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t do this earlier. It was partly out of shame. I was so embarrassed at the thought that they might not believe my story. For fear of being misunderstood or disbelieved, I suffered in silence.

The whole time this was happening, my only consolation was that I knew it wasn’t me. Even if everyone else didn’t know that, at least I did. However, something else was weighing on my mind at the time… I thought of everyone in the world who this actually happens to. Revenge porn is a real thing and I know people who have actually had their real nudes circulated online by an ex or a spiteful friend. To this day, I pray for those men and women. The human body was never made for this.

To all of the women and men who have been lied to and made to believe that sending nudes is a normal thing- I am sorry. To all of the women and men who have been exploited because of nudes they have sent- my heart breaks for you. To all of the people who are reading this and are tempted to judge those who ask for and those who send nudes- don’t. None of us are perfect but all of us can be better.

For anyone who might be feeling pressured to send nudes, I would just like to encourage you and tell you that it isn’t worth it. I promise you that anyone who’s love or attention might be hinging on the requirement that you show them something so personal and sacred as your naked body is not the kind of “love” or attention that you deserve. While that may sound arbitrary, believe me, I know. I have had pressure to do the same thing from people I’ve dated and people who weren’t even looking for a relationship with me. Looking back, I am so thankful that I didn’t give them what they were looking for.

If you’ve sent nudes before and you feel like you can’t turn back now- that’s a lie from Hell. We know from Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians that “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor 5:17). It is never too late to start over when you have Christ. Start today. Let Him make you new. That isn’t you anymore.

Finding Freedom from Same-Sex Attraction

By Emmanuel Gonzalez

Growing up, I didn’t feel like I belonged in the Catholic Church. Since I experienced physical attractions towards other men, I felt far too broken and “dirty” to ever find myself sitting in the pews at Sunday Mass. I despised God. I despised His Church and its “restrictive” teachings on homosexuality. And yet, even amidst the deep distance that I drilled between the Lord and I, Jesus patiently waited for me to return home to Him.

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Responding to a “Triggered” Culture

By Ava Hill

Trigger warning! Not necessarily, but let’s take a look at the meaning of “being triggered.” The concept actually originated in the field of mental health with the intention of aiding victims of trauma or disorders such as PTSD. For instance, a “trigger warning” may be placed on content involving suicide to prevent those who have struggled with suicidal thoughts or have experienced loss as a result of suicide from reentering into an unhealthy state.

Now, most of us who are familiar with popular culture know that this is not how the concept of being “triggered” is often used. In fact, the popular usage diminishes the real purpose of what it truly means to become triggered. Just scroll through the comments of any Instagram post—it does not even need to be politically controversial—and it is very likely that you will find someone who has been “triggered.” It is almost impossible for anyone to share their thoughts online without allegedly offending others. This may not be news to anyone, but this offense I am speaking of is more nuanced than your old friend from high school unfollowing you because you tweeted about your support for a particular candidate. As this habit of being triggered occurs most often on the political left, it often involves an accusation and questioning of the other’s morality merely because of their religious or traditional viewpoints.

I attended a liberal Catholic Jesuit high school. I met many wonderful people and, most importantly, received a stellar education. I could not, however, simply speak my mind or think out loud in any of my classes. It was not for the fear of others disagreeing with my viewpoints, but the worry that I would be deemed as a less-than-charitable Catholic. Yet, this is precisely what happened. In a very social justice focused Catholic school, I could not speak openly about how birth control distorted the theology of the woman’s body because classmates and teachers claimed that my privilege kept me from understanding why birth control is supposedly so necessary. Furthermore, students would stand up claiming to be triggered because of their personal experience with birth control. Now, contraception is another topic, but I assure you that the Church’s stance is one of the utmost charity and beauty. Like other topics that people become “triggered” by, it must be taught, discussed, and understood properly—which is rarely done.

Another distinction between finding offense and being “triggered” is when one is supposedly triggered and shuns the other person because of the apparent infraction. The response to the offending statement is no longer, “I am offended so I shall have polite discourse or leave the conversation until this blows over,” but rather, “I am offended so I shall create a permanent rift between this person and I.” Many of us have seen this when our long-time friends unfollow us or start social media arguments because we shared our thoughts on a controversial topic, and it is a sad reality.

Let us make one thing clear, when people become triggered, it is most likely because they have a personal tie to the topic at hand. This is vital to recognize, and it is one’s Christian duty to be present to simply listen to someone’s testimony of hardship. Our responsibility, however, does not end when we listen.

Additionally, social media is hardly ever a place for productive dialogue. Therefore, we cannot sit back passively as we watch the morals of our world crumble down and the souls of our brothers and sisters be lost. We must continue to speak for Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Furthermore, as social media is a realm that seems to emit a great amount of darkness into our world, we ought to be the light source. If all Catholics were to delete their social media because they believed it to be a source for evil, it would only be because they let it become one. Thus, all the lost souls left on Instagram, Twitter, and the like would be left with no illuminating presence.

Ultimately, it is paramount that our prayer lives fuel our words. It is useless to babble on about God, the Church, and politics on our social media timeline if the Holy Spirit does not have time to fill us with His words. Then, if we feel passionate about and called to highlight a particular truth, we can feel confident that we are doing so out of Spirit-filled inspiration and charity, rather than arrogance. If people are “triggered” by our words, we can discern the true intention behind their meaning and act accordingly with kindness. As Christians, it is a grace, for we cannot go astray if we remain in the Lord and speak boldly and in love.

How to Start a Relationship with Jesus

By Ellie Pierre

July 3rd of 2019, Catholic Youth Summer Camp: I walked into a room filled with worship music, and before me stood Jesus in the monstrance. This was very new to me given that I’d never had an encounter with Him. I’d heard about Him, and I didn’t really think I needed Him. But I knew I wasn’t happy where I was at, and something needed to change. So I knelt down and held out my hands. I started to let the words of the song take meaning in my heart, and as I did, tears came—tears of repentance, tears because I wanted to change, tears because Jesus was real, tears because Jesus’ love for me was stronger than I could ever comprehend. I felt so close to Him at that moment, so loved, known, and held.

Let me say before all this took place, I was in a bad place. Long story short, I would make bad decisions that felt good at the moment, but once that moment wore off, I was left feeling more empty, lonely, and hopeless. I felt a longing in my heart for something more that I tried to cover up with things of this world. This longing was left unsatisfied until I started a relationship with Christ.

We can all have an encounter with God. But it is up to us whether or not we are going to let it change us. To have a relationship with someone is not just a one-time thing: it takes time, effort, and persistence. An encounter is only the start, just like meeting a person for the first time. If you want to start a relationship with a person, you have to take the time to get to know them. Here are things that have helped build my relationship with Christ:

Prayer

Prayer is turning the heart toward God. When a person prays, he enters into a living relationship with God.

CCC 2558-2565

You can’t get to know a person until you talk with them. Take time every day to talk with Him, being open to Him and everything He has to offer. It’s all free for us to receive. It’s just our choice whether or not to take that step to come to Him to receive it. He is here right now, patiently waiting for you to turn to Him so that He can shower you with His gifts and flood you with His grace.

The Bible

Above all, the Gospels sustain me during my hours of prayer; in them, I find everything that my poor little soul needs.

St. Therese of Lisieux

By reflecting on the Gospels, we understand how Jesus lived and how we are called to live and treat others as He did—not just by reading the words, but by praying them. This is called Lectio Divina. It involves reading attentively, reflecting on what phrases speak to your heart, resting in the silence of His loving embrace, and responding to what He is calling you to do.

The Blessed Virgin Mary

To love Mary is not to take love away from Jesus. It is to multiply, amplify, and grow in love with Jesus.

Fr. Mike Schmitz

If you are looking to build a relationship with Christ, Mary is the one to turn to for help. She was given to us to be our Mother and will point you right to her Son. Much like how the moon reflects the light of the sun, Mary reflects the love of her Son. Pray the Rosary, and meditate on the mysteries of Christ.

Eucharistic Adoration

The soul hungers for God and nothing but God can satiate it. Therefore He came to dwell on earth and assumed a Body in order that this Body might become the Food of our souls.

St. John Vianney

Eucharistic adoration will bring you into an intimate relationship with Jesus. You can come to experience this intimacy just by sitting in His presence, truly believing in your own heart that before you stands your Savior, the One who bled and died for you, the One who knows you more than you know yourself, the One who has a love for you that is greater than anything you have ever experienced before. Just resting with Him in the silence of your heart will allow intimacy with Christ to flourish. Take the time to listen to what He is speaking to your heart.

I pray this helps you to start a relationship with Jesus—to experience a love, peace, joy, and freedom that exceeds everything this world has to offer. There is a hole in everyone’s heart that only God can fill. He created us to be in a relationship with Him, so why would we want to do anything other than what He created us for?

Loving God with the Heart of a Child

By Theresa Moore

Do you ever miss the simplicity of being a child? Those carefree, candy-licking, nap-taking, running barefoot in the backyard kinds of days? Most people have reminisced over these moments at one point or another. What is it about these moments that keeps drawing us back? I believe the part of those memories that is so attractive to us is the simplicity of them. And if we could remain this simple as we grew older, our love for Christ would increase remarkably.

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Healing from Sexual Abuse

By Dani Kuhl

**Trigger Warning**

The topic of this content can be triggering to some readers. That is completely understandable. I’m not going to go into detail and will focus on the healing more than the trauma itself, but if you need to stop reading here, that’s okay. Also, if you have been in a similar situation, please remember to surround yourself with people that you can talk to—other brothers and sisters in Christ, family, priests or religious, or even counselors. There is nothing to be ashamed about, and there are people here for you.

I went through a few years of sexual abuse between age 7 and 11. I knew the person quite well, and they were very much a part of my everyday life. I think that when someone so close to you hurts you in this specific way, it really messes with you. A priest once told me sexual abuse can be one of the worst things to happen to a person because it will affect them physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. However, I am blessed to say that where I stand now, I am healed in ways I didn’t think I could be. Being healed from something doesn’t mean that you’ve forgotten it, though, or that it doesn’t still affect certain areas of your life. It might not be an open wound anymore, but the scars are still there, and that’s okay. Unfortunately for me, the healing process didn’t begin until I was about 16, because the way I coped with it beforehand was hiding it and never talking about it or dealing with it. And trust me, if that’s where you are right now, that isn’t going to help you and it will only make it worse in the long run.

The first step that I took was acknowledging it to myself and being brave enough to bring it out into the open. It was hard to talk about it and bring myself back to that place. At first, the best way for me to work through it was with someone else who was either trained to handle it or someone who related to the situation in some way. I tried to do it this way for a while, and it definitely helped a lot, but ultimately, the Lord was the one who really helped me heal. It was once I let the Lord into that part of my life that I began to experience peace and acceptance within myself. I had to learn that Jesus wanted to sit in those wounds with me—and as with every wound or cut, when you need to clean it, it hurts. Pouring on that hydrogen peroxide or using an alcohol pad is going to sting like crazy, but it’s cleaning it and getting it prepped to begin to heal itself.

I know that without the ways that He worked in me and spoke to me, I would still be in a very wounded place in my life. I had to let the Lord into some very dark places, and let others into those places with me too. One thing that I didn’t realize was how long it would take to get to the point of freedom and peace. I would say that for me it took at least four to five years, and it is still something to this day that I need to fight for. Because the evil one wants to use this type of situation to unravel you and separate you from God. There were so many times I had to forgive over and over again, but I would honestly go through the whole process over again to be where I am today.

Let the Lord heal you. Let others into your life to love you and be with you. Talk it out with trusted people. Don’t get discouraged or lose hope and think that you have to stay in a wounded place forever. That’s not what I want for you, and that’s definitely not what the Lord wants for you.