Called to Proclaim

I recently attended a Steubenville Adult Conference in which a speaker took the stage and gave an extremely vocal, Catholic rally call. He shouted and asked us to loudly repeat after him. At first, I felt like I was at some protestant church with the pastor yelling, people clapping, cheering, and a constant murmur of “Amen” and “Yes, God.” I thought, this is not what Catholics do. This is not how we behave. We wait until someone says, “Peace be with you” to say anything. I felt so uncomfortable and completely out of my spiritual element.

Then I realized that this uncomfortability is exactly why the Catholic faith is dying. It’s exactly why the youth are leaving and not bothering to look back. Many Catholics are so complacent with the world around us that they are not even trying to make a change. Many Catholics are so apathetic that they are borderline nihilistic. Many Catholics seem to be so “whatever” that their values and beliefs are worth next to nothing.

We cannot become complacent with the world around us, especially when we live in a nation that is constantly rallying and protesting their beliefs. Everyone is protesting something, be it pipelines, marijuana use, animal cruelty, pro-life issues, and so much more. Change is made when voices are heard and we will not be heard if we do not raise our voices. Instead, we as Catholics will slip into the unknown and we will be forgotten.

So I tell you now that it is okay to get loud. It is okay to go into the public arena armed with God’s unending love to fight with. If we fight, we will win because we have God on our side. But we will not win if we never bother fighting. Besides, we were not created to be silent. We were created to love God and to boldly defend his creations.

Let us turn our responsorial hymn into a prayerful rally cry. Pray it loud. 

“O God, you have rejected us and broken our defenses; you have been angry; rally us! You have rocked the country and split it open; repair the cracks in it, for it is tottering. You have made your people feel hardships; you have given us stupefying wine. Have not you, O God, rejected us, so that you go not forth, O God, with our armies? Give us aid against the foe, for worthless is the help of men.” (PS 60:3, 4-5, 12-13)

If you are still afraid to be bold, pray Ephesians 6:18-20.


Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.


Constant Conversion

Someone once asked my friend, “If your boat sank and you could only save one of your parents, which one would you save?” Without hesitation, she answered, “My dad.” Everyone was shocked and couldn’t believe that she would leave her mother, one of the nicest people I’d ever met, to drown and die. Everyone loved her mother, Mandy, so we had to ask, “Why wouldn’t you save your mom?” I remember her shrugging and saying, “My mom told me that she lived her life full of love and faith. She said that she’s ready to go at any time because she knows that she’s done her best.”

Wow. Can you imagine knowing that you’ve done the best in making all the right choices? I know for a fact that if God came down right now to take my life, my brain would react the same as when you have an unexpected house guest. My brain would be on high alert, throwing things in the closet, shoving things into cabinets and yelling, “Just one second” through the door.  I knew I should’ve gone to Mass every Sunday. I haven’t gone to confession in years. I should’ve taught my boyfriend how to love Jesus. I shouldn’t have let them bully that kid back in 5th grade. Quite frankly, I’d be slightly terrified that I wouldn’t make it to heaven.

Today’s second reading reminds us that we will all one day, “appear before the judgement seat of Christ” and be judged for each act, good or evil. Now, I’m not saying that I believe I would go to hell, and I’m not saying that my friend’s mom has no regrets. What I’m trying to say is that she consciously lives a faithful life, everyday. It’s not just Sundays and it’s not just when it was convenient for her.

Write down the things you would regret if you died right now. Now, many of these post-mortem regrets are things you can change now. You can’t change the past, but you CAN change your future. I haven’t gone to Mass every Sunday, but I can from now on. It really had been 6 years since I’d gone to confession, but I finally felt the healing graces of the sacrament this past weekend. I should be sharing my love of Christ with my boyfriend, so I will begin talking freely about my joy and love for God. I should be standing up for what I believe in, so next time I will borrow Christ’s courage and say something.

Today’s Gospel is all about Jesus explaining the kingdom of God with a parable. The man scatters his seeds and they sprout and grow, even though “he knows not how.” I doubt that Mandy knows that my mother has often said, “I only wish I could be as holy as Mandy,” because that’s the kind of inspiration that you feel from her. I am not sure if she knows that people see her kindness, her selfless love, her compassion, her family’s love of Christ, her happiness and are inspired. Yet there are countless people, myself included, that are touched by her actions.

We should live our lives in the same way so that our faith inspires others to live faithfully as we do. We should live out our faith in a way that inspires people to show their kindness, their selfless love, their compassion, and their love of Christ in everything we do. In fact, I think Diocesan’s motto defines exactly how we should live: Catholic Life Every Day.

(Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.)


Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.


Saved By Grace

On my ankle, I have a tattoo that reads I>˅˄ and it stands for I AM (Yahweh/God) is greater (>) than my highs(^) and my lows (v). It reminds me that no matter where I am in my life, no matter how overwhelmed I feel, God’s plan is greater. Actually, I got this tattoo as a reminder of a time I was so depressed that I had planned to end my own life, but instead chose to turn to my family and God.

I know this is pretty heavy for daily inspiration, but I tell you this because I know that I am not the only one with a history of depression, especially in our society today. Specifically, I tell you this because I am still here for the same reason the widow in today’s First Reading did not commit suicide. You see, when Elijah met the widow, she had already decided to use the last of her flour to bake a cake that would kill both herself and her son. She was convinced that her life of struggle could not go on any longer. She would not put herself, nor her son, through famine and more tragedy.

When I read that the widows was about to “go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die,” I immediately wanted to cry. I had been there. I had gotten to that point. For years, I had felt as though my life had no purpose or direction. Yet, God had a plan.

God sent Elijah to this widow because he knew she had planned to die. The widow instead chose to tell Elijah of her internal struggle, and Elijah tells her not to be afraid, citing God’s words in order to remind her that God would provide for her. In a similar way, when I told my parents, they told me that everything would be okay; that God has a plan for me and put people in my life so that I would always be loved and protected.

It was soon after telling my parents about my depression that, through the church bulletin, my mother found a retreat titled, “God’s Plan For Me.” Going to this retreat reminded me that I was not alone. It reminded me that God knew what he was doing by giving me challenges. My life was never meaningless, and struggle was never a reason to give up.

Unfortunately, this newfound hope did not make everything instantly perfect. I still had a harsh reality to deal with. I had just graduated university and had no job lined up, so I moved back home. Being surrounded by my supportive, faith-filled family was a wonderful, yet difficult choice. Quite honestly, I hadn’t planned on living this long and had no idea how I was going to pay my bills, especially in a town with a population of less than 300! But as always, God had a plan.

Within a week of moving home, my hometown parish office called me and asked if I was interested in their part-time position as bulletin editor. I remember saying yes and crying thankful tears of joy when I hung up the phone. Using the bulletin, Our Heavenly Father had not only found a way to remind me that my life was worth living, but had also given me a job and further added purpose to my life.

Once I began working at the parish, I promised myself that wherever I worked next would be a Catholic company so that I could help God’s people the same way he helped me. I wanted to “pay it forward” ten-fold. This is how I ended up moving over a thousand miles for the opportunity to work at Diocesan. Funnily enough, though applying for Catholic jobs across the country, Diocesan was the only bulletin company I applied for. Coincidence? I prefer the term “act of God.”

Our Lord did not create us, his pride and joy, so that he could watch us struggle. He did not create us to be alone and keep our struggles to ourselves. Nor did God did not create you, or me, so that we would lose hope. He created us with everlasting love and undeniable purpose. As my favorite verse, Deuteronomy 31:6 reminds us to “be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” The powerful I AM is greater than our highs and our lows. He is always there, always watching and always ready to remind us that we have purpose and hope. God always has a plan.


Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.


Causing Scandal

On the internet there are a lot of jokes, tweets and memes that touch on the topic of cutting toxic people off. These social media commentaries are all about cutting bad friends, ex-boyfriends, etc., out of your life without ever looking back. So then, this begs the question: Is today’s reading giving us permission to cut people out of our lives? Is he giving us the magical solution and telling us how to say, “bye, Felicia” to mean people? Is this the bible-given answer on how to do this?

I thought so at first. Then as I read closer I realized…hmm…strange…today’s Gospel doesn’t seem to mention personal vendettas against people. Nor does it talk about banishing evil people from your presence.  Also, it’s definitely not about cutting your coworker out of your life because they stole your parking spot three weeks ago. In fact, the Gospel reading isn’t about others at all. It’s about cutting our own evil out of our lives.

Jesus begins by saying that anyone who does good will be rewarded, most likely with the best gift of all. The gift of everlasting life…entering those pearly gates…joining Jesus and the saints in heaven…meeting our Heavenly Father. But Jesus quickly moves on to say that anyone who causes others to sin should be weighted with rocks and thrown into the ocean to die. In fact, he literally says that if we lead others to sin, we may “go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire.” Yes, that’s right. Jesus just told sin-spreaders to go to hell.

Now, as someone who has only lived for 24 years, I may not know much, but I do know that going to hell is the complete opposite of my entire life’s goal. Now that I know this reading is not about cutting others out of my life, but my own personal bad habits, I feel a little scared. As most people, I don’t deeply reflect on how my bad habits affect others. I mean I know if I tell my brother to skip Mass, I am the cause of his sin, but I never considered the effect of my own decision not to go.

For example, I know that if I tell my brother to skip Mass and stay at home to binge watch a show, I am the cause of his sin. What I do not consider is if it was my own choice to skip Mass, and he did too, although I did not ask him to, that I would be the cause of his sin. Although not verbal or physically causing others to sin, the example of our lives may.  

Thinking harder, I wonder how many times I started a conversation with the intention of picking a fight, or how many times I caused others to gossip or curse just because I was. All these times, I was doing exactly what Jesus warned me of.

So the next time you’re about to tell your friend some juicy gossip, remind yourself that you would rather not be the kind of person who Jesus tells to go to hell. Instead, cut yourself off mid-sentence and be an example of Christ. Be the person who glorifies God and receives the gift of everlasting life.


Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.


Do You Love Me?

As a young adult currently in the “dating phase,” today’s Gospel immediately reminded me of a romantic relationship. I know for a fact that even now, I ask my boyfriend of two years, “Do you love me?” to which he replies, “Of course.” Yet, I do not stop there. I ask again, “Okay, but do you really love me?” to which he replies, “Of course I love you.” When I ask it a third time, he looks at me and says, “Veronica, you know I love you. Every morning I wake up, I choose to love you. Did I do something wrong? Is this because I brushed crumbs onto the floor?”

The same thing would happen if your child were to ask you. After the second time, and especially after the third time, you begin to wonder if you’re doing something wrong. You begin to think of all the times you messed up and wonder if this is the cause of doubt. You elaborate your answer instead of just saying “of course.” You think harder and you come up with more ways to express your love because you know in your heart that you truly do love your child, your spouse, your boy/girlfriend.

I think Jesus knew this natural reaction and used it so that Peter would justify and elaborate on his love for Jesus. It was not that Jesus was feeling insecure about their relationship. As Peter said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” So, we are reminded that it was not Jesus that needed to hear the affirmation, but Peter.

At this point, Peter has already denied knowing Christ three times, before his crucifixion. Jesus has forgiven him, but now that Peter is about about to become the new shepherd of Jesus’ flock, Jesus must ask this again. In agreeing to feed and tend to his sheep, Peter agrees to taking care of all Catholics, for the rest of his life, until the end of his life. Everything he knows was about to change forever and Jesus wanted to make Peter call to mind all the reasons he loved Jesus. This way he remembers all the reasons that would make becoming a leader and dying for his faith, worth it.

So now, coming back to our own lives, I think we need to play both roles and ask ourselves, do I love Jesus? It may feel silly, but how often are we asked these exact words? In fact, it is rare that our words prove anything. Instead, it is our actions that define us.

The first time we reflect upon this question, you may say: Well, yes, of course I love Jesus. I am Catholic, afterall. I go to Mass and I can say the rosary. Yup, I love Jesus.

The second time, consider your response with more thought and vigor. Do I really love Jesus? Take a view at your life and your choices. Do they reflect your love of Christ, or do they show a denial of him?

Finally, ask yourself a third time; Do I truly, honestly, wholeheartedly love Jesus? Do my actions reflect my love of Christ, or do they show a denial of him? Am I like Peter, denying my Lord and Savior in public, just to escape my own persecution? If so, have I moved past the reasons I previously denied him, or is there something that is stopping me from fully accepting the Catholic faith? If so, what is it?

So find a quiet place where you can really reflect upon today’s Gospel and honestly ask yourself: Do I love Jesus? Because he is waiting for me to accept leading others in the Catholic faith, as Peter did. Do I love Jesus? Because he has already forgiven me for denying him. Do I love Jesus? Because he loves me.


Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.


A Deeper Relationship

As Catholics, we strive to live in a manner that will grant us entrance into God’s Kingdom of Eternal Glory, but how do we do that? It goes far beyond holding the door open for strangers and going to Mass every Sunday. It goes far beyond baptizing your children and praying before meals. Quite honestly, the idea of working towards heaven can be daunting, as it feels as though only perfection can truly guarantee entrance. Yet it is not perfection that God expects from us, but a deep relationship with him.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us two foundational sentences with which to guide our spiritual lives. First, Jesus says that he is “the way and the truth and the life,” giving us our first clue on how to get to heaven. We are humans, and as we see from the first chapter of Genesis, we are not perfect in nature. Second, he says that whatever we ask in his name, he will do (John 14:14). As I mentioned, God does not expect perfection. What he wants is for us to truly know and love him, and he will listen.  

How great is that? How great is our God that he chose not only choose to allow us free will, but to allow us to have a personal relationship with him? He allows us to have conversations with him where we can thank him, ask him for help, and just tell him about our days. Plus, we know our voices don’t just fall on deaf ears. Even when we don’t think he is listening, it may just be that we are the ones that must stop and listen. With this kind of relationship, one so eternally forgiving and loving, why would we not want to deepen our relationship?

Jesus is the way we should live, because he lived as a human like you and me, walking the tightrope between good and evil. His way is one of hardships and giving your life in order to receive everlasting life. Jesus is the truth because He is the Son of God who came to earth in order that we may have a deeper connection with our creator. It is through having a relationship with our Lord that we are able to know the truth, to know peace, and to know love.  Jesus is the life because it is only through Christ that we are able to come to the Father and, therefore, come to know everlasting life.

If Jesus is the way and the truth and the life, then why are we not following his example? Why have we allowed ourselves to stray from the path, to believe the lies, to stay stagnant in our spiritual growth? God is not asking us to be perfect, but we shouldn’t just stop trying. Brothers and sisters, this is my reminder to you that we are given the gift of communication with our Father as a means to grow closer to God and gain entrance to his ultimate home for us. So today, let’s begin that conversation with someone that is always willing to listen:

God of light and all that is good, You have given us the gift of prayer as a way to lift our voices to you, so that you may fully know the content of our hearts and minds. We ask that you shine your light on our path when we lose our way. We ask that you shine your light on the truth when we find the lies so convincing. We ask that you shine your light so that we may grow in our relationship with you. We ask all of this through God our Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Amen.


Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.