The Secret to Forging Authentic Adult Friendships

Let’s face it, making friends isn’t as straightforward as it used to be. There once was a time when sharing the same sandbox equated to lifelong friendship; but long after the days of elementary school camaraderie, things have drastically changed.

The desire we have for relationships is etched deeply in our hearts: after all, God created us as relational beings! As St. Thomas Aquinas once said, “there is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

In a world of hundreds of friend requests and followers, our social cred online is oftentimes very different than the reality we live in. And as Austin continues to live up to its transplant city status, many of us are starting from scratch and searching to find those authentic friendships for which our heart most craves.

The secret? YCP! (All biases aside.) Here’s why: according to Aristotle, the best type of friendship occurs when two people live alongside one another and strive to grow in virtue. And, since a virtuous life leads to true happiness, the best way to do that is in good company! In the words of St. Maximilian Kolbe, “God sends us friends to be our firm support in the whirlpool of struggle.  In the company of friends we will find strength to attain our sublime ideal.” YCP is fertile soil for building those types of relationships, because we have the common ground of our faith behind us. No matter where one is on their faith journey, we’re all striving to live it authentically in the workplace and in our everyday lives, and we can learn from each one of our fellow YCP peers!

Mangia, mangia!

How does one cultivate such friendships? One way to start it is with some libation and a little initiative. There is something intimate about sharing food and drinks together. In a fast-paced world, sitting down to have a one-on-one meet-up with a stranger can be a breath of fresh air! In fact, if it had not been for a couple of friend dates scheduled over happy hours, two acquaintances would have never become two of my best friends.

Expand your existing circles

You don’t need to change your lifestyle to make the new friends you want. Invite new acquaintances to your already existing social activities and friend group! You might find that it’s a sincerely welcome invitation to someone looking for the same things you are. Whether it’s a hiking trip to Enchanted Rock or the search for the best BBQ in Hill Country, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and share the fun. You might stumble on an opportunity to practice virtue along the way 🙂

We all crave the intimacy that true friendship brings. God has written that desire in our hearts, and now is the perfect time to forge those authentic adult friendships. Challenge yourself to take the initiative and connect with others at YCP events these upcoming months; you might just find that those cheerful, kind-hearted acquaintances are expectantly waiting to build lasting, Christ-centered friendships.

Chaplain’s Corner : December

What is Faith?

CCC 150  Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed.

Faith is a gift from God. It’s a human act enabled by grace. It’s more than a belief, it’s an adherence of man to God. Faith requires perseverance, a continual adhering to the person of Christ.

Our prime example of the obedience of faith is St. Mary. Good chose to reveal his will to Mary through the messenger, the angel Gabriel. Mary’s first response is to welcome the messenger and the message. She then chooses to believe that what God has said may come to pass, “with God all will be possible.” Belief is part of faith, but it’s not all. The days after the encounter with Gabriel would have been filled with trials: “did I have a really strange dream, or am I actually with child?” And then, as morning sickness began and later she began to show the signs of pregnancy, there could have been room for more doubt: “what will Joseph think? Will he reject me?”

Faith is that continual adherence to God and his revealed truth regardless of circumstance, regardless of feelings. And this is the obedience of faith. Mary receives, which includes the willingness to act: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord.” In welcoming the word, Mary give God’s message a chance. She not only believes, she daily lives with full assent to God’s will. The ultimate goal of faith? The glory of God.

Fr. Tim Nolt, YCP Austin Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner 10.31.16

Two days ago we celebrated the Memorial of Saint John XXIII, canonized in 2014. St. John was pope from 1958 until his death in 1963 during the Second Vatican Council which he call for in 1959 and convened in the fall of 1962. In his opening address to council, Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, Pope John shared the words:

Mother Church rejoices that, by a singular gift of divine Providence, the longed-for day has finally dawned on which, under the protection of the Virgin Mother of God.

The council he set in motion would have a huge impact not so much on the doctrine of the church: Vatican II made no new dogmatic pronouncements on what we call the development of faith. Rather, Vatican II addressed the pastoral needs of the church in the  modern world. One of the lasting effects of the council — something which we take for granted today — was the change of the mass from Latin to the vernacular.

Pope John XXIII acknowledged the principle of unity:

“The very serious matters and questions which need to be solved by the human race have not changed after almost twenty centuries. For Christ Jesus still stands at the center of history and life: people either embrace him and his Church and so enjoy the benefits of light, goodness, order, and peace or they live without him or act against him and deliberately remain outside the Church, so that confusion arises among them, their relationships are embittered, and the danger of bloody wars impends.”

In my current home, the Cathedral, we have mass with classical guitar; we have mass in Spanish with a folk choir and teclado (keyboard); we have a mass with full choir and organ; and we have the Latin mass. Different styles of liturgy, but one Lord. Some people at the Cathedral identify more with things after Vatican II, others with things pre Vatican II. Yet the goal is the same: to embrace Christ in faith and come to know his benefits, of light, goodness, order and peace.

The principal of unity in the church is this: one Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ. St. John XXIII reminds us that the call to embrace Christ and his Church in faith is the call to experience joy. The Good News of the Gospel is always a proclamation of hope.

The joy we know in Christ comes not necessarily in the absence of challenges, difficulty and suffering, but in the midst of them. It’s a joy that the world cannot give on its own. And it is the true hope which we offer as work in witness for Christ. And in his Church, we have the true foundry of Divine Love, from which any nation, any party, and to which people of all creeds are invited: Will you embrace Christ and His Church?

– Fr. Tim Nolt, YCP Austin Chaplain at the October Executive Speaker Series

Heroes or Victims: A Tale of Two Perspectives

This article consists of followup points coming from our September Executive Speaker Jim Bearden, who presented, “Happily Ever Afters Don’t Just Happen.”:

3 Points to Consider

1. The hands we’re dealt aren’t always good ones. The people, behaviors, situations, circumstances, conditions and events we encounter don’t always measure up to what we expect. I thought I’d begin with an understatement!

2. We always make choices about the bad hands we’re dealt. Yes, we also make choices about the good ones, but the choices we make about the bad hands are especially important.

3. The choices we make are determined more by our perspectives than by the bad hands themselves. I want you to think about that one, because those choices determine if, when and how effectively we deal with those bad hands we’re dealt. If perspective is so important, maybe we should try to get a better sense of what it is and how it works. We will benefit by understanding how we use it.

Perspective

As I see it, perspective is a two-phase mental process by which we perceive and process. Our perceptions include the information we gather about the people, behaviors, situations, circumstances, conditions and events in our lives.

Most of the drama we experience is the result of that second phase, where we process by assigning meanings to the information we’ve gathered. The fact that we assign those meanings unconsciously makes it easier for us to completely overlook the roles we play in creating much of the drama in our lives and limiting our effectiveness at dealing with the bad hands we’re dealt.

To illustrate this connection between our perceptions, the meanings we assign and the power of our perspectives, let’s consider this question: What does in mean to be 60? I’m sure you’ll agree that it pretty much depends on where we’re looking at 60 from, right? If we asked either of my daughters (ages 25 and 27) what do you think they’d say? I’m guessing it would be things like, “Old”, “Really old”, “Don’t set any long-term goals” or “There are more things you can’t do than you can”. And if we asked my 88-year-old mother-in-law, we probably hear things like, “Sweet bird of youth”, or “What I’d give to be 60 again”.

So we’ve got the same number (60), used in the same context (depicting chronological age), viewed at the same time by two people who, when asked to declare what it means, assign totally different meanings.I’m not saying that the number is irrelevant. What I am saying is that the meanings those people assign are not based so much on the number as they are on their perspectives on the number.

Perspective is a mental process that all use countless times each day. Our perspectives produce both emotional and behavioral consequences. What that means is that if we are committed to improving the quality of our feelings and behavior, a good place to start is with the perspectives we use.

Two Perspectives In Play

While no two people’s perspectives are identical, there are what I’ll call “group perspectives”. Some common examples are perspectives based on gender, race, nationality and political affiliation. In this series of pieces I’ll be focusing on two perspectives most of us use to process the bad hands we’re dealt.

1. The victim perspective, characterized by emotional victimhood, and

2. The hero perspective, characterized by emotional accountability

We’ll begin with the one that is by far the more popular. Which do you think that is?

Emotional Virtue & the True Path to Happiness

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven…A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. – Ecclesiastes 3

Emotions pepper our human experience. The memories we form – good or bad – are treasured in our minds precisely because the emotions behind them make them significant. But while the human heart is capable of the highest degrees of heroism, because of original sin, our feelings can at times become disordered and fall prey to base instincts.

Christian morality gives great importance to guiding and orienting our human feelings because they influence our ability to live a happy and harmonious life. Because sin has introduced disorder to the human heart that needs to be set right, learning to guide the emotions requires fortitude and an ongoing commitment to improvement.

Educating the Emotions

Educating our emotions involves training our feelings so that they lead us to feel good about what leads to a happy and holy life, and to feel bad about the opposite. Personal happiness and sanctity will be achieved the better we can attain this.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks to the importance of incorporating our feelings as we struggle for holiness: “Moral perfection consists in man’s being moved to the good not by his will alone, but also by his sensitive appetite, as in the words of the psalm: ‘My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God,’” (CCC 1770) because “either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy” (CCC 2339).

I’m sure that we all have experienced that doing what is good might not at times seem very attractive, or we may not feel happy after doing what is right. For that reason, our emotions are not an infallible moral guide. However, that doesn’t mean that we should thrust them aside; rather, we should guide them so that they help us to do what is good and attain happiness. For example, if someone feels guilt about lying and satisfaction about being sincere, this is beneficial to our formation. Likewise, if one feels saddened or uneasy about selfishness, laziness, unjust actions, or disloyalty, these emotions will help us to act in ways that are good and just.

When we accept our emotions as a gift given to us by God, we can realize that He wants us to use the power of our passions and our will towards what is truly good. By cultivating and guiding our feelings, we will be able to receive sound guidance from them, and it will be easier to live a virtuous life and achieve holiness in our ordinary tasks.

*Inspired by the September Executive Speaker Series presentation made by Jim Bearden.

 

Chaplain’s Corner 09.13.16

As we come into the final months of the Year of Mercy, I would like to share the following words from Henri Nouwen’s book, The Return of the Prodigal Son (78):

“The father’s love does not force itself on the beloved. Although he wants to heal us of all our inner darkness, we are still free to make our own choice to stay in the darkness or to step into the light of God’s love. God is there. God’s light is there. God’s forgiveness is there. God’s boundless love is there. What is so clear is that God is always there, always ready to give and forgive, absolutely independent of our response. God’s love does not depend on our repentance or our inner or outer changes.”

Discipleship always come down to choice and intention: the choice to follow Jesus, and the intentional turning back to the love of the Father, away from things that distract. Pope Francis reminds us that it is we who tire of receiving the Lord’s forgiveness, that he never tires of forgiving us. Why not? Because we live in a daily spiritual battle. We see God’s love but through a broken image of perfection. As we turn, day after day, to God, we find that he has always been awaiting us, that indeed his love draws us closer in. His desire is to bless, not punish: “The father simply wants to let them know that the love they have searched for in such distorted ways has been, is, and always will be there for them.”

The story of the Prodigal, and his return, has very little to do with the sins of the younger or the older brother, and everything to do with the immense father heart of God: not to punish, but to cherish, to bless, to say good things over his children. And to call them into his plans and purposes.

Fr. Tim Nolt
YCP Austin Chaplain

A Working Witness: Interview with Rachel Perry

Living our faith is a decision we each make on a daily basis. For Rachel Perry, the decision to say “yes!” led her to her conversion to Catholicism, jobs that required selfless self-giving with the poorest and most destitute members of society, and today to her current role where she strives to work in witness for Christ through honoring God and the dignity of every person she encounters.

Rachel is on the YCP Austin board of directors, and is the Executive Assistant to the CEO of Envirocon Technologies, in addition to directing all administration, HR, and culture-related initiatives of the company. She hails from Corpus Christi, TX.

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Rachel (4th from R) and family

YCP Austin: Rachel, tell us about your journey coming to the Catholic faith.

Rachel: I grew up Protestant, so faith has always been a big part of my life and my family’s, but I started learning more about Catholicism when my brother married my sister-in-law, who is Catholic. My family members slowly started converting, it’s been amazing to see!

I started questioning my Protestant faith while I was a sophomore at UT, assisting with a middle school youth group. I found out that the leader of that group was involved in some pretty unethical things, so I decided to step away from the ministry and I started thinking about what the true path to Christ really was, apart from humans and our mistakes.

The next semester, I went to Italy to study abroad. While I was there, one of my friends from home was brutally murdered. I got to a very low point – I had a lot of questions for God, like why something like this could happen, and had a lot of anger and frustration. One of the great comforts I had during that time in Italy was the fact that I was in a very Catholic country. I was surrounded by a deep faith that permeated the culture and life around me.

When I got back to the states, I enrolled in Professor Budziszewski’s philosophy/religious studies/government course at UT, where I delved into Pope Benedict’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) and Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. I loved the course and delved into studying the documents. Faith and reason as well as the doctors of the Church really spoke to me, which we learned a lot about in that class. I enrolled in RCIA, and became a Catholic in May of 2008 around the time I graduated.

YCP Austin: Tell us about your professional journey, and what brought you to where you are today.

Rachel: I graduated from UT with a major in Government and Latin American Studies, focusing on Third World Development, so after college, I felt called to serve in roles where I could live my pro-life convictions, and advocate on behalf of the poor and vulnerable. I accepted a high-paying corporate job right away, but volunteering with the homeless during that time led me to quit that and pack everything up and move to Colorado to teach English to refugees from Africa and the Middle East. That question of corporate social responsibility really intrigued me and led me to make such a drastic change. While there, I met a great Catholic community, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, who I spent time volunteering with.

I then moved back to Texas where I spent the next 5 years working case management with the homeless in Austin, working in PR/Marketing for the Ronald McDonald House Charities in Corpus Christi, and as the Development Director for the Christian Outreach Foundation in East Austin. It was a lot of hard work, but I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to help people who truly needed it. Throughout that time, my prayer was, “Lord, please let me see people for who they are in light of who you’ve made them to be,” with the addicts, refugees, investors, executives, and all I encountered each day.

In 2015, the executive director and main donor of the Christian Outreach Foundation suddenly passed away, and I needed to find a new position. A friend recommended I explore becoming an EA (Executive Assistant) – it was something I had never really considered, but it’s turned out to be so fulfilling and I am able to live my faith in a corporate setting in so many unexpected ways. I am so grateful for where I am today, because I know that it’s what God’s calling me to do!

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Rachel (C) with her sister Meredith & brother Andy

YCP Austin: How do you strive to live your faith and Work in Witness for Christ in the workplace?

Rachel: There’s a very connected way that I am able to practice my faith throughout my work and in the business. Some of the values that we have is always speaking truth in all we do, full transparency, and we strive to be excellent in our work ALL the time. I live by the Ray Dalio (from Bridgewater Associates) Principles: approach everything with transparency, truth, and honesty above all else; because that is the only way to change, evolve, and improve.

One of the ways that I live my faith is by being the Cultural Ambassador of my office; by honoring God with my whole being and encouraging a pro-life and pro-family culture at Envirocon Technologies. I do this through diet and exercise (I eat a gluten-free, all natural, organic diet and practice yoga with others at the office, because this is part of Prayerful Living and respecting the bodies that God gave us!), giving back to the community (RMHC donations, Share-A-Meal program, etc.), celebrating life milestones (like wedding anniversaries, new additions to the family, school graduations and work anniversaries) and encouraging healthy habits (yearly gym memberships, etc.)

YCP Austin: What advice can you give to YCP Austin members who are striving to Work in Witness for Christ?

Rachel: I’ve found that having structure in your life and prioritizing God helps you to leave everything at the cross, especially those things that you can’t control. Here are some of the things that I have found helpful (and continue to find helpful) throughout my faith journey:

  • Starting the day off with prayer and scripture. I pray for each of my nieces and nephews by name!
  • Being unapologetically Catholic. I’ve lived with and been around many atheists and agnostics, and have been very open about my Catholic faith. Leaving the door open to discussion, respectfully disagreeing with things that are contrary to my beliefs, and modelling my faith by my actions is the most powerful evangelization tool.
  • Doing every little thing well. All the details add up! We can start small, like making our beds in the morning. All the little things are ways of sanctifying our work and offering it up to God.
  • Prayerfully living. This means taking care of the bodies that God gave us. I try to concentrate on the whole person, not as a means to an end, but as respect to the inherent dignity of each person.
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Rachel with sisters Allison, Tammy and Meredith

YCP Austin: Who are some of your role models?

Rachel: I have so many people to look to for examples, both professionally and among the saints! I look to my boss, Curtis, and Michelle Horine, the Executive Director at the Ronald McDonald House Charities, as great leaders and examples of professionalism; my sister-in-law Tammy, and my favorite saints, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (who was also a convert, and a visitor in Italy) and St. Mary Magdalene, who loved Christ deeply.
The only thing we bring with us to heaven are our relationships, so we should make them count. Live honestly, genuinely, and speak truth in love.

Chaplain’s Corner 8.16.16

From Chapter 4 of The Joy of the Gospel

To evangelize is to make the kingdom of God present in our lives.

To believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in everyone means realizing that he seeks to penetrate every human situation and all social bonds: “The Holy Spirit can be said to possess an infinite creativity, proper to the divine mind, which knows how to loosen the knots of human affairs, even the most complex and inscrutable.”

Early on in my seminary career in Houston I had to travel from St. Mary’s Seminary to the University of St. Thomas to take my 30 hours of philosophy. Often my classmates and I would run into some of the Dominican Sisters who were also working on their theology and education classes. One day one of these sisters asked me, “how are you?” and I answered candidly: “I am a bit lonely these days.” Her reply was immediate and on the spot: “Why are you lonely? You don’t have to be lonely, we have God! He is always with us.”

I already had a masters in theology by this point, so I knew in my head the theological truth of her statement. But it took a human encounter with someone else in God’s kingdom to remind me that, indeed, God is always present to me. Sister did her part to “evangelize me” that day.

As we work in  witness for Christ, do we believe that his spirit is always with us, that he communicates his loving mercy to us constantly? And we are open to being ministers of reconciliation, to invite others to trust in God’s constant, loving presence? My situation that day with Sister was not terribly complex, yet she reminded me of the truth of what Pope Francis says: that the Spirit knows how to loosen the knots of human affairs. Her words moved me along in my journey with God. What story of faith has God given you to share? Pope Francis invites us to be a people who go forth and engage others with our story. I have shared part of my story, can you do the same for others?

– Fr. Tim Nolt, YCP Austin Chaplain 

Top 10 Travel Destinations for the Wanderlust Catholic

Traveling is good for the soul. It provides refreshment, enjoyment, and renewed appreciation of the world around us. As Catholics, we are able to share our beliefs with millions of others around the world and are a part of a rich history that has shaped cultures and groups of people all over the globe. We can use our travels to discover and enjoy the richness of our faith and its history.

A traveler can receive graces by visiting certain places that are significant to our faith, and those vacations can be transformed into pilgrimages. Pilgrimages are journeys made to a holy place “with the purpose of venerating it, or in order to ask there for supernatural aid, or to discharge more religious obligation.” (Catholic Encyclopedia)

In the words of St. Pope John Paul II, “The great shrines should be places where people go to obtain grace even before they obtain favours… How many people have gone to a shrine out of curiosity as visitors and have returned transformed because they heard words there which enlightened them?”

Ready to start planning your next trip? Here are the top 10 travel destinations for the wanderlust Catholic:

10. Assisi, Italy – Visit the Basilica of San Francesco and explore the famous saint’s old stomping grounds in this beautiful Umbrian town that seems to exude peace among pilgrims and locals alike.

9. Krakow & Czestochowa, Poland – The recent World Youth Day may have attracted a larger than normal number of pilgrims, but these Polish towns are always attracting travelers from around the world. A famous shrine of the Virgin Mary in the town of Czestochowa, the Jasna Gora Monastery, contains the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa or the Black Madonna, to which miraculous powers are attributed. The city of Krakow was home to saints Pope John Paul II and St. Faustina, the later who’s tomb is found in the Shrine of Divine Mercy.

8. Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain – Nestled in the beautiful Catalonian mountain side overlooking the city of Barcelona, the Montserrat Monastery has scenic views and breathtaking architecture that has been through the ups and downs of Spanish history. The abbey houses the image of the Virgin of Montserrat.

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Photo credit: Foodie & Tours

7. Turin, Italy – Home to the famous Shroud of Turin in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, this city is a “must” for your bucket list. This city is also the home of St. John Bosco, who cared for hundreds of orphans and poor boys in the wake of the Industrial Revolution.

6. Santiago di Compostelo, Spain – This city is the culmination of the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James), a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St. James in northwest Spain. Each year, thousands of people from different backgrounds make this pilgrimage that spans parts of France and Spain.

5. Lourdes, France –  Five million pilgrims travel here every year to visit the place where the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858. The Sanctuary of our Lady of Lourdes includes a sacred grotto and two basilicas. Many miracles have occurred here and the sick often journey to this sacred destination in hopes of solace from our Holy Mother.

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Photo Credit: 206 Tours

4. Guadalupe, Mexico – Millions journey each year to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe to see the miraculous apron of St. Juan Diego  containing the image of the Virgin hangs behind bullet-proof glass above the altar in the new basilica. Some pilgrims crawl on their knees for miles as they approach the basilica before praying to the Virgin of Guadalupe.

3. Fatima, Portugal – The Shrine of our Lady of Fatima is one of the most famous Marian shrines in the world. Pilgrims travel to the place where Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children and asked the world to pray for peace.

2. The Holy Land – Walk in the footsteps of Christ by visiting places like Bethlehem, Jerusalem, The Sea of Galilee, and Mount Sinai where Jesus was born, where he preached and healed, suffered, died and rose again.

1. Rome, Italy – The heart of Catholicism! From St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, the scavi tours, the catacombs (not to mention the pasta, pizza and gelato!)…the list goes on an on! If there’s one place to pick to visit from this list, Rome is a must-see for any Catholic travelling the world!

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Photo credit: SourceFed

Inspired to book your next world tour of Catholicism? Buon viaggi!

The Secret to Finding Purpose in Your Vocation, No Matter What Your “Status” Is

Whatever your current relationship status, I’m sure most of us can recall a time (or many) when some well-meaning friend or relative asked you, “Why aren’t you married yet?” Kevin & Deann Stuart’s talk at YCP’s last Executive Speaker Series resonated with many of us: single, married, discerning, and everything in between. In the words of Deann, “[Friends and relatives] acted as if marriage was a prize to be won, and I seemed smart, pretty enough to be worthy of that prize.”

While these people in your life and mine may be very well-intentioned in their question, comments like this fail to view the sacrament and vocation of marriage as a response to a particular calling. And being single, now or later, doesn’t mean that one has a fatal flaw.

As Christians, we are all called to holiness, and your vocation is the particular way in which God is calling you on that path. In a culture that encourages the delay of marriage and children – a vocation to which many of us are called – many of us young Catholic (single) professionals feel stuck in a state of limbo wondering, how do we discover our calling? The answer lies through our faith alone: we will more clearly discern our calls the more that we develop our interior life – our personal relationship with Christ, and his holy Mother.

If our vocation is a way to attain holiness, that is something we have to work towards on a daily basis. We can do this by sanctifying our work, sanctifying our relationships, and sanctifying each little and insignificant moment of our day. Our Mother Mary’s “yes” to her vocation was a defining moment in salvation history, and God bestowed many graces on her so that she could persevere and follow his will throughout her life.

In a similar way, God gives each person graces to face the trials that each vocation holds. The “I do’s” a couple vows at the altar are defining moments in the sacrament, but the sacrifice and love in the moments of hardship and pain are ultimately seen through by the graces given to them through their vocation.

However, the “yes’s” that each one of us is called to answer to aren’t just one big dramatic gesture: they are the little moments that make up every day, both today and 20 years from now.

“Happily ever after” is something in the realm of chick flicks. In reality, marriage is hard work. It’s a decision to love the other person every day, no matter how tired you are, how terrible a situation is, how the other person has disappointed you, grown unattractive, or annoyed you. A vocation is saying “yes” over and over again, especially when it’s difficult!

When I think about vocations, I think especially of my mom, who has always been my biggest cheerleader, strongest support, and best role model I could ask for. I was blessed to grow up watching my mom – who is the most selfless person I have ever met – make sacrifices for my family each and every day. I saw her put aside her own preferences, desires, and comfort, all for the sake of our 9-person family – who are too often ungrateful and her hard work for us often goes unnoticed. But her unconditional love for us leads her to do it all, regardless. Someone asked me about discerning my vocation a few years ago, and my response was, “I’ve always wanted to be like my mom.”

To someone that doesn’t understand what a vocation is – a path that will lead us to holiness, and ultimately heaven – what I’ve just described may sound uncomfortable, at best. To me, seeing the joy that self-sacrifice and love brings not only to an individual but to an entire family, that seems like greatest joy in the world.

We’re all imperfect and constantly make mistakes. Even my mom (who I’m certain if far closer on the path to sainthood than any person I know, especially after the trials my siblings and I have put her through) is flawed. But that the beauty of a vocation: God gives us graces to forgive, to get back up when we fall, and keep moving closer to him.

Like both Kevin and Deann shared, our current careers and callings will likely change over the years, but God is calling you to be where you are today so you can touch who you need to touch – or vice versa – before you move on. Whether you are single or married right now, you can use your current moments to pour yourself out into others – in your friendships, career, volunteer work, or other important areas. It’s important that we accept the challenges of the season of life we are in right now and take them as opportunities to grow in our interior lives, while we try to resist the urge to strive for the next rung on the ladder. Let’s instead embrace the joys and struggles as just a chapter of a life well lived.

Drs. Kevin & Deann Stuart of the Austin Institute for the Study of Culture & Family spoke at YCP Austin’s Executive Speaker Series on July 8th. Missed it? Check out our videos on our Facebook page to catch their talk that we recorded live.