Tag: Love

13 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 13

13 Reasons Why— Many of you have watched it, know someone who has watched it, or at the very least have heard of it by now. Many of you may think that as a nun, it’s something I would have no interest in, but I was a teenager once, was bullied, and understand how hard high school can be.

As the Campus Minister at Mary Help of Christians Academy, I want to be able to dialogue with my students about the Netflix series, so I took some time to review the episodes. Sharing in Hannah’s journey towards suicide left me with a lot of complex feelings and a list of 13 things I wish could have shared with the characters, or even my teenage self. Here are my 13 pieces of advice, based on watching 13 Reasons Why, that I wish I had known when I was younger:


1) The importance of good friends.

Our friends often shape and affect our behavior more than our families because we spend so much time with them. Look around your friend group – if someone was going to describe you based upon who you hung out with, what would they say about you? Do your friends make you a better person? In what ways did Justin’s friends help him? How could Justin have been better helped if he had a different friend group?


2) Build yourself a support network of trusted adults.

Growing up is hard, confusing, and at times overwhelming. It helps to have people to talk to and learn from, not just peers but adults whom we know we can trust and turn to in difficult moments. Hopefully your parents are among those whom you can trust and learn from, but if not, who are some trusted, responsible adults whom you can trust and go to in difficult moments?

Try to identify them and build a support network for yourself. You should never face difficulties alone and you don’t have to, so don’t settle. I know 13 Reasons Why can make it seem like there are no helpful adults out there, but they do exist. I promise.


3) Trust your gut.

God gave you intuition for a reason. Sometimes you will just feel that situations are not safe or something is very wrong. Learn to listen to that and you will spare yourself a lot of suffering and awkwardness in life. Even if everyone else thinks what is happening is okay, if your gut is telling you something is wrong and you need to leave, don’t ignore it. I have always regretted not listening to my gut.


4) It’s important to support our friends; it’s not okay to enable them.

Supporting someone through a hard time is a part of friendship, but turning a blind eye to unhealthy behaviors, choices, and addictions is not being a good friend, its being an enabler. Do not enable through silence the actions or attitudes of your friends that are harmful. We are all responsible for each other. If the students in the high school had only spoken up when they saw injustice or wrong situations, Hannah, Jeff, Alex, and so many others may have been spared incredible suffering.


5) You have a right to healthy boundaries.

It’s a real skill to learn, something that would have helped many of the characters to advocate for themselves. Saying “no”, setting limits, and having standards are all ways that emotionally healthy adults take care of themselves. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling guilty for having standards or not wanting to do something – be your own person and love yourself enough to set boundaries for yourself and for how you allow others to treat you.


6) Have a safe “out”.

When going to events, parties, or on dates, it’s important to have a predetermined escape plan. Coordinate with your parents or some trusted person a way to get yourself out of an unsafe situation. Whether it’s through a coded text message or some other kind of signal, give yourself peace of mind that you have a strategy to protect yourself, should you need it. So many of the characters in 13 Reasons Why could have escaped terrible situations if they had an exit plan.


7) Never leave a person who is incapacitated.

If you are somewhere and a person you know, or even a total stranger, is in a vulnerable situation due to drugs, alcohol, or for some other reason, do not look the other way. We have a responsibility to help each other. Perhaps you will need to call in a professional (paramedic, police, a responsible adult, etc), and perhaps someone will be mad at you for doing it, but never pass a person who is incapable of protecting themselves without acting. Jessica suffered the effects of this, as have many other men and women; you never know when you might save someone from a horrible situation.


8) Be careful of what you take pictures of and how you share it.

Once something is on the internet or texted, it will always exist. There are countless stories of young people who have lost scholarships, their reputation, and friendships because of what was shared. Like Hannah, the picture could have been taken in a totally innocent moment, but context is everything. Be careful.


9) Be careful of the stories you repeat; words have power.

You do not know if the story you are repeating is true. The rumor you hear can have lasting consequences for someone. We can often speak words and forget we said them, but if they are damaging to someone’s reputation, it can be difficult to stop the damage once it’s inflicted. Hannah experienced this first hand.


10) Never be afraid to ask for help, especially when you feel you are “in over your head”.

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that are really complicated and confusing. It’s not a weakness to ask for help when we do not know what to do or how to handle a situation, but make sure you ask for help of the right people. Our friends may not always be the right people to advise us, or may have a vested interest in giving us a certain kind of advice. As I watched Clay struggle with going through the tapes, I wondered what his experience would have been like if he had reached out to someone for help. Hannah could have spoken up about what happened to Jessica, but she was afraid; how would Jessica’s story been different? Some things are too complicated and painful for us to deal with on our own, so let’s stop trying to do it by ourselves.


11) Believe in something greater than yourself.

I am a nun, so obviously I believe in God, but I wasn’t always a nun and when I was a teenager, I did not always believe in God. Life was pretty hopeless when I felt there was no God, and hence no greater plan or meaning to life. Hope is something we are offered by Jesus. Hope should define Christians, but often we Christians do not communicate or represent it well. For those of us who do so poorly, I apologize, but I can tell you with all sincerity, that having hope, believing that our lives have meaning and that God can bring good out of any situation, is empowering.


12) Open your eyes.

Every day we are presented with countless opportunities to tell people that they matter, to listen to their stories, to offer support, or even just to be with those who are lonely. Yes, some people are “different”, but aren’t we all different, just some in less socially acceptable ways than others? One of the greatest experiences in life is when two “different” people discover their commonalities and become friends, but that can never happen if we keep our eyes glued to our shoes as we walk down hallways. Try to make at least one person smile everyday, and you will find yourself smiling more.


13) Invest in yourself.

Find out what you love to do, and develop it. Spend time with people who bring you joy. Learn a skill that you can be proud of. Visit places that are off the beaten path, not just so you can post about it on Tumblr or Instagram, but so that you can enjoy being alive. Life is full of so many beautiful things, sometimes it takes just unplugging from the “everyday” or putting down the cell phone to enjoy it.


Sister Brittany – “Sister B” is a Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco who originally hails from the Chicago area. She is currently the Campus Minister at Mary Help of Christians Academy in North Haledon, NJ, an all girls college preparatory high school. (www.maryhelp.org) Sister B enjoys writing, movies, cooking, and Grumpy Cat. She finds hope in the beautiful faith and courage of young people, and treasures her vocation as a Salesian Sister that enables her to encounter it everyday.
CLICK HERE to Listen to Sister B on Relevant Radio talking about 13 Reasons Why. 

 If you or someone you know needs help,  please contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 
We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. 1- 800- 273- 8255

Godly Dating: The Person God Has Made For You

“Jesus Christ, King of All Nations,

send me a prince who will make me

a princess worthy for you

my King and my Love”

This was my daily prayer for years. A dear friend had told me that Jesus loves the title, “King of All Nations” and that when I pray I should entreat Him under this name, especially when praying for a spouse. 

I began reciting this little prayer composed by the yearnings of my heart throughout each day – in the morning, after I received Jesus in the Eucharist at Mass, and each time before I went to bed. I said this prayer when I was lonely, when I was in the presence of happy, young couples, and when I prayed for my vocation.


I was never more faithful to a prayer. 

Mike and I met at a Catholic young adult group. I remember being immediately attracted to him. He had, and continues to have, such a peaceful and quiet humility about him. When we first talked, he looked me in the eyes, and I immediately felt my dignity and worth. Though he did not know me, he looked at me with such love.


It was exactly how I pictured Christ would look at me.

That was what first attracted me to him – that look of love for not just me, but for all those around him. As I got to know him more, my attraction for him grew. His profound inner peace, his gentle voice, his Catholic strength, and his bright blue eyes led me on the greatest adventure of love my heart has ever known. 

Mike pursued my heart in a beautiful, intentional way. He made sure to become my friend before formally dating me. I wanted to date him immediately! Yet Mike took the time to get to know me. He listened to what I had to say, he drove six hours to meet my family, and he asked questions that allowed me to share my dreams, desires, and goals. All of our conversations were incredibly edifying and left me desiring more. 

When he did ask if I would date him, my response was, “thank you.” And though we joke about it, I truly meant that response with all my heart. I was thankful that he wanted to date me. I was grateful that he desired to be my friend first – something that no other man had done before.


I was joyful that he took the time to pursue my heart as a gentleman of God. 

I had never been more certain of anyone in my life. There is a holy, heavenly peace that consumes you when you are with the person God has chosen for you as a spouse. There was no doubt in my mind that I was with the right person. In fact, I have never been surer of any other reality in my life. 

We dated for five months before Mike asked me to marry him. We were engaged for a year before we got married. Throughout those days leading up to our covenant of love, Mike continued to lead me, to pursue me, and to love me. He guided me towards Christ, and I knew this man was my way to heaven. Mike is my vocation. Mike is my prince. 


I see the face of Christ most clearly in Mike.

I know that he is the prince that is making me a princess worthy for my King, for my ultimate Love – Jesus. And as our adventure of love continues to grow each day, especially in the form of our son, Peter, I am reminded of a truth: I am worthy of love. Every man and woman – is profoundly lovely and beautiful. Every man and woman is worthy of a love that will lead him or her to heaven. Please never settle for anything less than a life of love. 

Jesus Christ, King of All Nations, thank you for my prince who is making me a princess worthy for you my King and my Love. 


Claire Couche is a wife and mother who lives in Buffalo, New York. She graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville where she studied history and theology. She later received her B.S.N. and worked as an oncology nurse on a bone marrow transplant unit before becoming a stay at home mother. Claire enjoys traveling, cooking, calligraphy, hiking, and attending the symphony. For more writings from Claire and her husband Michael, visit their website, www.findingphilothea.com. 

The True Happiness Found In Easter

You did it! You made it through Lent. You might have failed at some of your Lenten promises, or maybe you kept most of them. Either way, God knows your heart and your intentions. He was building and shaping you in every moment. All of your sacrifices, fasting and penance lead you to a deeper relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


We celebrate the great joy of Easter. Christ resurrected!

What peace and joy this brings to our hearts. But it doesn’t have to stop there. This joy is not just a feeling we experience one day a year, but rather a state of life that Jesus wants us to live each and every day of our lives. Joy does not base itself on circumstances, it is endless and everlasting. You can attain this lasting joy by knowing and trusting in the goodness of God. Our joy comes from the Lord. 


The Catechism says,

“true happiness is not found in riches or well-being,

in human fame or power, or any human achievement— or indeed in any creature,

but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love” (1723). 


So how do we live out the joy of Easter? Jesus! We look to Jesus as our guide. We look to the cross as the ultimate example of love. Easter means that the tomb is empty. Jesus left the tomb and He never went back. He only looked forward at what was to come! 

This is key for our own spiritual growth. We must not turn back to old sins or struggles, or dwell on the past or things in our lives that continuously hurt us. Christ promises us new life and He wants us to experience that to the fullest.

“Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father,

we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:3-4

 In order to embrace this new life,  first we must address the struggles and brokenness in our livesdeal with them and work through themask God to heal us and embrace the life He longs to give us. No matter what happens to us, we can’t give up, but we must look ahead and keep going! 

What are the tombs in our own lives?

Whatever it is that you may be carrying, whatever hurt, brokenness or suffering you have endured, give it to Jesus. Lay it down at the foot of the cross. He wants to comfort you, He wants to heal you and He wants you to live in His everlasting peace and joy! God continuously pours out His love for us. He sent His only son Jesus to die for our sins.


He sacrificed His life for us so that we may live. 

This is how much immense love He has for each one of us. It is incomprehensible. Jesus performed countless miracles throughout His life. He healed the sick, cured the blind, and raised the dead. Nothing is impossible for our Lord. He can work miracles in our lives too. But we must trust and believe that He can and He will. He will resurrect you from the tombs in your life! You just have to allow Him to work. He who makes all things new, has a beautiful plan for you. 


In order to live a life of joy we must keep Christ at the center. 

Now, this doesn’t mean that you will feel joyful all the time.  Everything will not be rainbows and butterflies. Life is not perfect and it’s certainly not easy. You will experience difficulties, but during these times if you cling to the hope that the Resurrected Christ brings, peace will reside in your heart. The peace of knowing that we have a God who we can trust, who is there for us no matter what. A God who suffered out of love for us, conquered death and brought about great salvation— an all powerful and loving God who gave His life so that we may have life eternal.

Let us pray, Jesus we thank you and praise you for all that you have done for us. We ask that you heal our wounds and that we may come to know and live out the joy of Easter through your Resurrection. Amen! 



Lauren Costabile is a Catholic speaker, singer and film creator. As a performer in the Array of Hope Concert Event, she actively spreads the gospel to young people and families through music and witness. She creates inclusive films that educate and raise awareness for those with disabilities, promoting the dignity and value of all life. She loves all things gluten free and strives to use her gifts and talents to spread joy and make our world a brighter place. 

What Should I Give Up For Lent?

“Why do we fast, but you do not see?

Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”

Isaiah 58: 3

We abstain from meat on Fridays, have designated days to fast, and offer up our own sacrifices during the Lenten season. Sometimes, it can feel like it all goes unnoticed by God, and maybe we will not be encouraged to take it very seriously. We might think that we have to do something really hard for God to notice and be pleased. I used to approach Lenten fasts as an extremist, pushing to see how much intensity I could handle. Though a lot of good still came out of my fasts, I was missing the point.


What is the point? Does God notice? Is He pleased?

At the start of Lent, Ash Wednesday, we receive ashes. We recall the words God spoke to Adam, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3: 19).” It is a humbling reminder that we have not created ourselves—that we are not in control of the amount of time we have on earth. This should not be confused as a command to lie in the ashes and remain in a pit of despair—as we must also remember the words from the Psalm, “He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap (113: 7).” We have been raised up, and we are to live in the light—His Light. The ashes are a reminder of where we come from, but also that we are now called to mission.

Throughout the Lenten season, we discipline ourselves to remember this calling.


Fasting is a concrete action to represent the sacrifice of our personal wills, making room for the acceptance of God’s Most Holy Will.

Abstaining from meat on Fridays and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday keeps the Church united in our shared mission—to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28: 18-20). As we all have a different role within this mission (1 Corinthians 12: 12-31), we are also called to make personal sacrifices. These will not look the same, because we struggle with different personal sins—different obstacles that prevent us from fulfilling our mission. Lent is a time of purification. Weeds are removed so that the flowers have room to grow. How can you make your fast transform your life beyond Easter Sunday?


Looking at the seven deadly sins, I have proposed some ideas to help strengthen your Lenten sacrifices.


    • Give up social media after 10 PM. Color a picture, pray a rosary, or read instead.
    • Give up chocolate. Pray for self-control in desires of the flesh every time you crave it.


    • Give up snacking in-between meals. Write a meal plan, and stick to it.
    • Give up chocolate. Offer up a prayer of thanks for what you have every time you crave it.


    • Give up Netflix. Donate the money to your parish or a non-profit organization.
    • Give up chocolate. Make a fun treat to share with a friend or family member.


    • Give up the snooze button. Get on your knees and offer your day up to the Lord.
    • Give up chocolate. Get through your to-do list without focusing on rewards.


    • Give up breaking the speed limit. Choose to be patient, and offer up frustrations.
    • Give up chocolate. Pray for someone who annoys you every time you crave it.


    • Give up comparing yourself to others. Write a letter to someone who has inspired you.
    • Give up chocolate. Use the money to give a gift to someone you do not think deserves it.


    • Give up doing what you want. Set aside time to discern what the Lord asks of you.
    • Give up chocolate. Eat something you do not prefer.


Regardless of what you gave up, the Lord can transform you through it.

My point is not that you have to give up chocolate—I did not, myself—but God can transform you through the littlest sacrifice if your heart is in the right place. Will you let Him change you, or will you just wait anxiously for Easter to arrive? The point of fasting is not to sacrifice now and indulge later. It is also not supposed to make us intolerable to others as we are burdened by what we cannot have. Make a joyful sacrifice. Be renewed.


Give the Lord your chocolate, but do not keep from Him your heart.



Mikayla Ruth Koble is a Catholic writer and speaker for COR – Cats on Rockets, a non-profit ministry she co-founded in 2016. Originally from North Dakota, Mikayla has moved around the country and landed in Michigan. Wherever she goes, she seeks to lead others to an encounter with God’s Love and Power. To learn more about COR or get in touch with Mikayla, please check out www.catsonrockets.org!  – See more at: https://arrayofhope.net/strong-in-him/#sthash.pjzcqJSp.dpuf

Embracing Singlehood

Sitting alone in a corner, I relaxed into the ambience of a cozy coffee shop. I sipped my coffee, pulled out my Bible, and waited for a friend to join me for breakfast. The room was filled with tables of new couples and old friends. Time passed slowly as I emptied and refilled my cup but my friend never arrived. As I paused to enjoy the jazz overhead I smiled to myself about the irony of this situation. A few months ago I began to ponder the unique witness of the Christian single person, and this moment was testing my hypothesis.


The single person, through their visible solitude, witnesses to the fact that every person is called to intimate communion with the Trinity.

What is more, it is the single person’s desire for communion that witnesses to man’s longing for communion with God. The single life, whether temporary or chosen for life, gives an invaluable witness for all Christians.

God  made us for communion when created us: “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). However, if we are made for communion with God, then it is clear that any form of communion we experience on earth will not completely fulfill us. Our relationships with loved ones are only a foretaste of the perfect communion we will have in Heaven.

Note well that “solitudeis quite different than “loneliness or simply “being alone.” Being alone is a very isolating experience in which there is a lack of relation with anyone. Yet when one is in solitude, one has a connection with others or God but is by oneself.

Saint John Paul II, in his general audiences that comprise A Theology of the Body, examines the second creation account in Genesis and suggests that God created Adam and delayed the creation of Eve to promote Adam’s self-discovery, namely, his desire for communion and his true relationship with creation and God. John Paul II calls this experience “original solitude.”

“Without that deep meaning of man’s original solitude,

one cannot understand…the situation of man…

[Man is] set into a unique, exclusive, and unrepeatable relationship with God himself” (6:2).

Saint John Paul II

The single person’s state is a reminder and sampling of original solitude. The single person’s solitude–not loneliness–makes his or her longing for communion visible and even appealing.


If the single person lives in a state of loneliness, they witness to nothing but emptiness. If they live in solitude, they witness to the longing every person should have for communion with God and it is a witness which stirs others.

The single person is made ready for the heavenly nuptials by living in a state of longing for communion. He or she reminds the world that from the moment we were baptized we entered into a covenantal relationship with God and we must build this relationship now and long for its complete fulfillment with God in Heaven. In the state of marriage, a spouse is God’s gift as a means to prepare one for the definitive communion with the Trinity.

In the consecrated state of the religious or priestly life, one  has a slight taste of the Trinitarian communion on earth through his or her consecration or ordination. The solitude of the single person enhances the beauty of communion in the married and consecrated life. The choice of the single person to avoid intimate relations with another outside of marriage witnesses to the dignity of each human person.  It “keeps alive in the Church a consciousness of the mystery of marriage and defends it from any reduction and impoverishment” (Familiaris Consortio, no.16).

Also, because the single person is unconsecrated, the spiritual communion of the consecrated person is all the more “a particularly profound expression of the Church as the Bride” (Vita Consecrata, no.19) and a sign of dedication.

The single person’s solitude is a reminder for each of us. At some point we all pass through the single state before choosing marriage or consecration, or even after the death of a spouse. It is meant to be a time of self-discovery, preparation, and purification as it was for Adam.


This time of solitude gives us the opportunity to discover how the Trinity is truly our complete fulfillment. 

This time helps us to purify our motivations and to embrace with understanding the fullness of the commitment we make in choosing our vocation. Thus the single person’s solitude brings to mind this fruitful time in our life.

All of this passed quickly through my mind as I sat in the café and smiled at God’s humor. I could have sat there annoyed, embarrassed, or sulking because my friend did not show up. I could have been standoffish, pretending I did not want company. But in reality I desired companionship, and that desire sprang from my deeper longing for eternal communion with God.

Was I a witness to anybody there that morning? I honestly doubt anyone noticed me or gave a value to my solitude; maybe the experience was just for me. It is unfortunate that few notice the significance of the single state for it is a gift. The next time you talk with someone living the single state, allow their present vocation to stir your own longing for communion with God.


Melissa Prazak is passionate about the New Evangelization and has a M.A. in Philosophy from the Center of Thomistic Studies at the Basilian University of St. Thomas. She has a special love for St. John Paul, kolaches, and blues dancing. And, since community aids us in persevering in hope, Melissa uses her Texan roots to foster Catholic community through good-old fashioned southern hospitality.


Learning to Pray From a 2 Year Old

It’s funny how the Lord speaks to us when we least expect it…

A few weeks ago, I was sitting on the couch at a family party chatting with my older cousin, Pete.  As we were sitting, Pete’s 2 year old son, “baby Peter” as we call him, came strolling into the room.  He had that “it’s been a long day, I need mommy or daddy” look written all over his face.  His little arms were filled to the brim – a tennis ball in one hand, his “sippy cup” in the other, and his sister’s princess doll clenched between his arms and his chest. Pete caught sight of him in all this distress and called him over to sit with us. Baby Peter, relieved to see his father close by, quickly trotted our way. 

Once he made it to us he instantly unloaded everything he was holding onto his dad’s lap.  The tennis ball, the “sippy cup”, the doll – out of his arms they went.  Pete took these things and set them aside nicely, allowing his son to then climb into his lap, rest his head on his chest, and simply let go of all the stress that comes with being a two-year-old at a family party.  Then the two of them just kind of sat there for a while.  Pete softly asked him a few questions about his day, what him and his cousins had been playing, and lastly, what was bothering him. 

After some back-and-forth conversation and  assurance from daddy that things would be okay, baby Peter was renewed. The anecdote prescribed by his father this time around was a refill of juice in his sippy cup and a change into his spiderman pajamas. Following this, baby Peter ran off, ready to face the rest of the day.

I was so struck by this simple interaction between my cousin and his child, and figured out why soon after. 


How I desire to interact with my heavenly Father

I realized that this father-son interaction was how I desire to interact with my heavenly Father, and more specifically, how I desire to pray to Him.

Follow me with this for a minute… let’s unpack baby Peter’s actions.

First, he decidedly sought out his dad.  He did not let any of the distractions around him, from the toys laying all over the floor to the plenteous desserts on the kitchen table, to prevent him from turning to his father.  


Are we this determined to seek out our Heavenly Father?

 Connecting with the Lord in prayer is one of the most important things we can do, yet, we allow so many lesser things to prevent us from it.  We must be determined and committed to making prayer a priority in our daily life.

Next, baby Peter handed over to his dad everything that he was holding onto.  He handed these things over trusting that his father would keep them safe, yes, but more importantly because holding onto these things would have prevented him from being with and talking to his father the way he desired to. 

When we approach God in prayer, do we hand everything over to Him?  Or do we hold onto things so that we don’t have to fully open up to God?  Our families, jobs, education, finances, joys and sorrows, triumphs and failures. Not only does our Father know how to handle these things better than we do, but clenching them prevents us from going deeper into relationship with Him.

After he let go of everything he was holding, baby Peter simply sat and conversed with his father.  He was still, calm and content just being with his dad.  And, if I had to guess, his father’s presence was infinitely more important than anything they talked about.  It’s the same with our heavenly Father.


The goal of prayer is union with our Lord, to rest in His presence and be assured of His love.

Rattling off a few ‘Hail Mary’s’ and telling God what we need is not the whole story. We must encounter the person of Christ, and that requires seeking Him in the silence, being with Him, and speaking to Him from the depths of our hearts.

Lastly, baby Peter accepted the answers his father had for him, which in this case happened to be more juice and a change into his pajamas. He then joyfully went out to face the world once again.  God knows what we need much more than we do. No prayer goes unheard. We need to trust that God is refilling our “sippy cups,” even when it doesn’t seem like it. And then, we must respond by going back into the world, joyfully and peacefully witnessing to the good news we have in Jesus Christ.

St. Teresa of Avila said,

“Give me a person who makes

15 minutes of prayer every day,

and I’ll give you a saint.”


I think we can do this, don’t you? The world needs Saints, and Saints are made from prayer.


Let’s pray, let’s be Saints.

“Prayer is the breath of faith:

in a relationship of trust, in a relationship of love,

dialogue cannot be lacking, and prayer is a dialogue of the soul with God.”

Pope Francis


Tom Pagano is a graduate from Franciscan University of Steubenville (2011), with a double major in Finance and Theology.  He is currently working as the Northeast Regional Director for the Augustine Institute, an organization committed to helping Catholics understand, live and share their faith by creating engaging programs, resources and digital platforms. Tom has committed his career to working with faith-based nonprofit organizations in the areas of development and mission. Tom is most excited about the newest adventure that God has called him to; being a husband to Megan and father to their first child, baby Zelie.

The Best Gift a Parent Can Give Their Child

My parents have often said,

The best gift we can give to you is your faith with all our love.” 

And they have given it, devoutly.  

They taught more by example than by word.  They worked hard; they prayed harder.  They celebrated the victories, great and small; and they laughed a lot.  And if I’ve learned one thing from them, it’s that there is GENIUS in the guidance of our Church.

We often refer to the Church in the feminine, as bride or as mother.  The term ‘Mother Church,’ or Ecclesia Mater, was introduced early in salvation history.  

St. Paul revealed a great mystery when he told the early Christians that a man must love his wife in the same way that Christ loves His Bride, the Church. He made her holy “by washing her in cleansing water with a form of words, so that when he took the Church to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless” (Eph 5:25-27).


Truly, the Church is a Mother, there to guide those who will listen to her many, many years of lived wisdom and inspired counsel. 

Growing up, I strived to follow the rules my parents set and the teachings of our Church, though sometimes blindly and many times with a luke-warm and wondering heart–is this really what will make me happy?  Sometimes I wandered, sometimes I strayed, but the voice of faith and reason alive in our Church always called me back.  

I remember many lonely days in high school as I strove against the current of my peers who were living a different life than the one I knew my parents wanted for me and the one our Church taught was right.  Out of OBEDIENCE, I trusted and I acted, having faith that the guidance was rooted in love and wisdom.  This was a grace.


Looking back today I can see how the direction of my parents and our Mother Church has saved me from a lot of brokenness. 

And it’s brought me to a most beautiful, new, and affirming chapter in life.  One with many amazing relationships–relationships with mothers, with fathers, with brothers, with sisters, with friends.

What I can say about my journey is that I would not be where I am without the wisdom and counsel of my mothers–both the mother who bore me into this world and the Mother who we call Church.  


What mother does not want her child’s joy above all else?  

In the Catechism we read that it is “in the Church, in communion with all the baptized, that the Christian fulfills his vocation” and it is “from the Church that he learns the example of holiness and recognizes its model and source in the all-holy Virgin Mary” (CCC 2030).  We look to tradition, to years of experience, to find where we are called to serve.

For a time, I struggled to know my vocation–what kind of “motherhood” I was called to–whether it be biological or spiritual.  I discerned consecrated life and saw the beauty of it.  I witnessed married life and saw the goodness of it.  

When Pope Benedict XVI gave his final Wednesday Address, he told us that “one receives one’s life precisely when one offers it as a gift.”  And so, eager as I was to know what that ‘life’ would be, with faith, I gave it back to God and asked Him to show me how He wanted me to offer it as a gift.  

Not long later, I met my husband.  He is amazing.  


The joy I feel in marriage is like nothing I’ve experienced before.

What God showed me through my process of discernment is that vocation is ALWAYS fulfilled in a PERSON.  Whether it be the Person of Jesus Christ–lived through a celibate and consecrated vocation–or the person one is called to marry–lived through a free, total, faithful, and fruitful self-donation between a man and a woman.

I am overwhelmed by the beauty of what our Church teaches and the Good News she proclaims of her bridegroom, Christ, our Lord.  It is His example that we are called to follow above all else.  St. Paul beckons us to do the following:

“Follow Christ by loving as he loved you,

giving himself up for us as an offering

and a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God”

(Eph 25:2)

This is big.  This is beautiful.  And this is the best way we can live our lives, receiving the gift of faith and, in turn, offering ourselves as a gift, first and foremost to God, with all our love.  


Mary Jean Jones is a wife and mother to her son Shepherd and daughter Reagan. She graduated from Ave Maria University in 2011 with her Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and Theology. 

Why Pray to Mary?

I’m sure most of you, like me, remember the annual first day of school picture. You know the one, where you stand in front of the door with your backpack and new school clothes (I went to a private elementary school, so the clothes were the same for 9 years, but still). You try and force a smile even though you’re sad because it’s so early and you know homework is imminent. At the time it was unpleasant, but now the pictures are fun to have because we can look back and see the different years, remembering the excitement and the nerves about what each year had to bring.

What I want to focus on more than pictures, though, is the person who gets you dressed (well, for a few years at least), packs your lunch, and takes the picture of you. Yes, you guessed it, I want to talk about mothers. More specifically, I want to talk about our Lord’s mother, Mary, and the way praying to her points us to her Son.

There are many surface level perceptions of our Blessed Mother. To some she’s just the woman from the paintings and statues that are all over Catholic churches.   To others, she is the woman we hear about around Christmas time in the nativity story. Still others, I am sure, don’t really know what to think about Mary.


Regardless of where you stand, what we want to reflect on today is who this woman is, and why she is so important.

Personally, I never really thought much about Mary growing up. I had heard about the rosary in school, and saw my mom praying it, but actually praying a rosary myself was far from my mind. As I got older and began to have the desire to deepen my faith in the Lord, I never thought of making Mary a part of that process. I seem to have overlooked just how crucial Mary is for our spiritual journeys.

My “wow” moment with the Blessed mother came during college, when I joined a group of men in reciting a Marian prayer called the “Memorare” on a regular basis. As I began to pray this prayer consistently I would hear these words and be struck by the confidence of this plea:


 “Remember, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary,

that never was it known

that anyone who fled to thy protection

or sought thy intercession

was left unaided,”


Through praying the Memorare, I began to see the power of Mary’s intercession, and understand more clearly the necessity of calling upon Mary in my time of trouble.

By Mary saying “yes,” what we refer to as her Fiat, she brought a Son into the world. Her Son, Jesus Christ, our God incarnate, was unlike any other son born of a mother. However she, like every other mother, wants us to see just how special her Son is. Just like our mothers here on earth, Mary wants to show everyone pictures of her Son, speak of what He has done and will do for so many, and proclaim His greatness.

Picture, for a deeper example of this, Mary and Jesus at the Wedding at Cana. They run out of wine, and Mary hears about this. Knowing her Son as she did, and always desiring to point people to Him, she brings the problem to Jesus and lets Him do the work. In the same way, she does this with our prayers. Mary, the Immaculately conceived Mother of God, only desires to point us to her Son and allow His will to be fulfilled in our lives.

That, my friends, is why we pray to Mary-or at least it’s why I do.


It’s not about worship or some superstitious practice.

It’s not just reciting mindless words while flipping through our rosary beads. We pray to Mary because, just like any mother, she wants to reveal her Son to us in every possible way. If we want to know her Son, there is no better way to do so than to ask His mother to introduce us. Praying to Mary never keeps our focus on her, but always points us to the One she is focused on, her Son Jesus.

And so, whatever our relationship with Mary currently is, it might be time for us step it up a notch.


Here are some suggestions:

Pray the Rosary 

If you never pray the Rosary, make the effort to start, whether it’s once a week or once a day, Mary will shower us with grace.

Reflect on the Scriptures

Read Mary’s words and hear her story in the scriptures. Reflecting on her life in this way will draw us closer to her.

Read a book on Mary

A good book on Mary might be exactly the way the Lord wants to help us grow. There are plenty of them out there, pick one up! In some of our cases, an increased devotion to Mary might just look like a couple of Hail Mary’s throughout the day whenever we need help.

For me, devotion to Mary started with the Memorare. If you don’t know this prayer, I strongly encourage you to learn it and pray it when you feel you need some heavenly aid. Through this prayer, I have gained a love for praying the daily rosary, a desire to reflect more on Mary and Jesus in Scripture, and a passion for learning more about Mary’s role in my faith life.

Praying to Mary will lead us to Jesus; today is the perfect time to look at our relationship with her and challenge ourselves to deepen it, so as to deepen our relationship with her Son.


Mary, Mother of the Church and hope for all of mankind…Pray for us!


Jason Theobald is the Director of Youth Ministry at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Huntley, IL. He lives in the Chicago suburbs with his wife Sarah and one-month old son, Noah Michael. He graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2012, and lived in the Pittsburgh, PA area for a couple of years before moving home to his beloved Chicago.”

Finding Joy in Simple Things

The poor have it right. My recent mission trip to Nicaragua taught me where America got things wrong.


Over the summer I went on a mission trip to the Mustard Seed Communities Special Needs Orphanage in Nicaragua. Because of the work I did there and the people I encountered, it was a life changing experience that I will hold dear to my heart for the rest of my life.

The people I met in Nicaragua truly amazed me.


They appreciate the simple gifts of life.

In the eyes of others, these people are considered “poor”, but they are SO rich in love. Some may think that they have every reason to be depressed and miserable but they are the happiest and most joyful people I have ever met. They know that their circumstances are due to the brokenness of the world and they still believe in the goodness of God and that God has a special plan for them despite all the suffering.

It’s easy to feel sorry for these kids because they are abandoned, unhealthy and malnourished, but as I learned more about them and really got to know them, I began to admire them. They may not have all the resources that we have in America, but they do have happiness and love, whereas here in America we have everything we could ever want and yet there is a huge lack of faith and love.

In America, we tend to take a lot for granted and get caught up in the distractions and temptations of life, but when you strip away everything except for the basics, God is the one thing that remains.


Nothing else matters.

When you live a simple life, you don’t worry about the small things and you are able to immerse yourself in the beauty of everyday life. Living simply gives you the opportunity to really live everyday to the fullest and open your eyes to see how God is working in even the simplest of moments.

For example, despite all the language and cultural barriers between the kids and I, God’s love was our common language. They didn’t speak or understand English and I didn’t speak or understand Spanish, but we understood each other’s hearts and we were still able to communicate. God’s love has no boundaries.


It doesn’t matter what language you speak, what race you are, or your physical or mental ability, God’s love prevails above all.

These kids are a true testament of that. Because they live in God’s love, they don’t judge anyone; they look at people through their hearts. Their example challenged me to aspire to be the best version of myself, who God created me to be, at all times.

Ultimately, that is why God created us, to be examples of love in everything we do. I think He puts certain opportunities and people in our lives for a reason and when we discover, accept and live out God’s plan for us in our everyday lives, He will grant us so much peace and grace.

The lives of these children are both heart breaking and heart warming. Some are a product of rape, some were abused, and others were abandoned by their families. It really stuck with me that considering all of this, the mothers of the children chose life. They valued life enough to give their child a chance in the world even if it meant eventually giving them up. Because they chose life, these kids have the opportunity to let God’s beautiful plan for their lives become a reality.

It amazed me to think and meditate on how God truly cares for each and every one of His children that He would make sure to protect them and give them life. God really does have a special and unique plan for us all!


The fact that there is heartache and suffering in this world just proves that we are created for something so much more.

Something beautiful awaits us in Heaven. It will all be worth it. There will be no more suffering, just pure joy and bliss with God the Father. There is so much hurt and suffering in this world, but where there is pain, you can always find joy.

These kids are living proof of that. They don’t have parents and they may never have a stable family, but they find joy and happiness in their everyday life. These kids have experienced more hurt and heartache in their short lifetime than many will experience in their entire lives. But through the every day struggles, they praise God in the sufferings and live everyday to the fullest.

They seek love but they also give love to others and spread love to everyone they meet. They have no feelings of resentment and hold no grudges. Naturally you would think they would be hesitant to become close to others, but these kids just want to be held and loved and to know that someone loves them and cares about them. They will immediately run up to you and give you a hug and a kiss. Love is all they are seeking. This is a profound reality for us all.


Isn’t that what each one of us is seeking? To live a life of purpose and love?

We get that true love from God and God alone. He calls us to love others the way He loves us.

This trip showed me that the most important aspect of life is our faith. Nothing will make us happy or give us peace but God. Our spiritual life is the most important aspect of our life. This has helped me to realize that God doesn’t call us to do extraordinary things, but he calls us to touch lives and change hearts, one person at a time. Experiencing every little moment and being an example of His love and constantly spreading that to everyone we meet. In every little moment, we are building the kingdom of Heaven, one child at a time, one smile at a time.

I ask that you please pray for these children, that although they don’t have an earthly father, that they may grow to know our Heavenly Father.

For more information on how to donate or plan your own trip, visit http://www.mustardseed.com.


Lauren Costabile is a Catholic speaker, singer and film creator. As a performer in the Array of Hope Concert Event, she actively spreads the gospel to young people and families through music. Lauren speaks about of how God has worked so powerfully in her life in hopes that it inspires others and draws them closer to God’s love. She creates inclusive films that educates and raises awareness for those with disabilities in our society. She strives to use her gifts and talents to make our world a brighter place.