We are already living in the salvation the Lord has won for us, but not yet are we living in the
fullness of it. I am already claimed and given the identity as a daughter of the King, but not yet do I fully understand what the looks like in my life. I went into our Formation women’s retreat honestly not expecting to get anything out of it. It’s just another thing I have to do, something to check off my list of obligations. Not the best, mentality I know, but I’m just being honest here.
Thankfully the Lord knows just how to bring me back to the truth.
In the earlier part of the day we heard a talk and there were probably a lot of other great points but the one that utterly struck me was this idea of “already, but not yet.” It scared me. It made me think of the ways I wasn’t living up to the potential the Lord has filled me with. I could just hear the “but not yet” playing over and over again like a broken record. I went into my personal prayer already feeling helpless and upset at myself for all the ways I had been failing, specifically in my relationship with the Lord.
Do this. Do that. Be better. Serve more. Study more. Pray more. Sleep more. Give yourself more.
All the things.
But thankfully He knows how to bring me back to the truth in such a gentle way. After what
seemed like forever of hearing that record He came in and broke down those lies. I could hear
His voice just saying “because I love you.” As simple as that. Hope is not to be lost, in fact it’s
exciting to think that I’m continually being changed each and every day. Without the cross and
the suffering it comes with, we would not have the joy that comes with the resurrection. I am not
left in the suffering and despair; in fact there’s a lot of security in knowing that the Lord doesn’t
leave me in the “not yet.” I am not forgotten. I am not too lost. I am not defined by the
circumstances around me. There is so much potential to be found in the “not yet.”
I walked away with a sense of promise and reassurance that change will come day by day.
Matthew 6:25-27 brought me, and continues to, bring me out of that spirit of worry and into a
spirit of hope:
“Therefore I tell you, do not
worry about your life, what you will
eat or drink; or about your body,
what you will wear. Is not life more
than food, and the body more than
clothes? Look at the birds of the
air; they do not sow or reap or store
away in barns, and yet your heavenly
Father feeds them. Are you not much
more valuable than they? Can any
one of you by worrying add a single
hour to your life?
Classic move by God allowing me to receive such a powerful message when I went in expecting
nothing. Our God is faithful and desires the best for His children. I will no longer let myself fall
into the despair of “not yet.” I will live my life joyfully because who I am and who my Father is.
I live in the truth of the “already” and confidence that the Lord is changing me despite if I see it
Just a few weekends ago, we had a Men's Camp Out and retreat on freedom through healing and forgiveness. We experienced freedom through times of prayer, small groups, worship, intercession, and a series of succinct but informative talks surrounding the notion of spiritual healing. We were fortunate to fly in two very special guests, Nick Redd and John Packer Stevenson, who ran most of the retreat. We are all still dwelling in this freedom and healing by living in the mercy of Jesus' cross AND ascension.
Here is a student testimony about it:
My name is Blake, I am a senior at Texas State. I recently attended our Men’s Formation Retreat at
Palmetto State Park. I have been praying consistently into clarity of direction following college. What God had planned was even better. He revealed the man he has been forming for years. He showed the stark contrast of who I am and who I used to be. In this revelation I can trust confidently God has called me to become a full-time missionary in May. Believe me when I say, four years ago I would have died of laughter if you told me I would become a missionary…but sometimes the Lord has other plans. God bless and pray for me!
Big Bend – Men’s Trip
Just about as soon as the students returned from winter break, a group of men were off on an adventure to Big Bend National Park. The 8-hour drive was long and at times boring, but the beautiful golden ridges of Big Bend quickly drew our attention to them. We weren’t in our site for more than an hour and we were already on the trail for a quick hike as the sun was setting. The next couple of days would include longer hikes including the well-known “South Rim” hike that easily stretched 15 miles of rocky hillside and one breath-taking view at the top. It was a great way to start off the semester, but merely a warm-up for our upcoming Grand Canyon trip this Spring Break.
Rally for Life – Our Lady of Wisdom
You might be aware, but the March for Life recently took place in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. As the weeks followed, various cities around the U.S. also took part in their own march/rally. Recently Austin, Texas hosted their own “Rally for Life” and several students from Texas State, more specifically from Our Lady of Wisdom University Parish gathered and headed out to Austin to walk the streets surrounding the capital building and finishing with speakers and music at the capital’s footsteps. There was great support for this event with people coming from all around the state of Texas.
Not more than a few hours post-Rally-for-Life was our monthly Lord’s Day event. This is one of our favorite community events specifically for just that reason as we consistently have a solid community showing. This Lord’s Day was particularly great in that we were all exhausted from the Rally for Life and were down for some good ol’ fashioned relaxation and fun! From praise and worship to board games to some deliciously-catered Chick-Fil-A, this was one Lord’s Day to remember.
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every
opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the
Lord’s will is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)
Opportunity is a breath. When God breathed life into us He breathed in an opportunity to
live a life for more than just ourselves.
My “SPO story” is kind of random. It’s not your typical small-group-into-formation- into-
household formula that I found to be common for many involved with this organization. My
journey with SPO started this past summer, months before I even knew that it existed. I was
starting my second summer as a New Student Orientation Leader for Texas State University and
a good friend of mine and I were looking for something to do together. We got separated into
different staffs and probably wouldn’t be able to chill together as much as we were used to, so
we decided going to church would be a different, more productive, and intentional way to spend
time together that we could at the very least try out. We talked about it a lot but never really
found the right opportunity to actually put this thought into action. Then the Lord sent a sign to me through a welcoming smile of a young woman involved with SPO. I never truly believed in the Holy Spirit until looking back on that moment, but it was that simple opportunity that lead me to SPO. I found out about household a couple of months later. I was looking for a place to live and for some reason I waited until late July. I heard about this Catholic Men’s House and the opportunity was nothing short of a miracle and completely guided by God. So, I met with our Mission Director, Ben Huntley, and that’s when I found out that this household is a program through Saint Paul’s Outreach. That same week I turned in an application and interviewed for a spot. A couple of days later on a Sunday I got a call saying I could move into the house and I moved in on that Tuesday.
I had literally no idea what to expect. I hadn’t been a practicing Catholic before moving
into household or even attending SNE (The School of the New Evangelization). Waking up at
6AM for morning prayer was rough. Trying to converse with eight strangers was intimidating.
Being consistent with personal prayer felt like it was going nowhere. But, every time that I felt
hopeless in everything I tried to do, a brother or sister that I made in this new community
lifted me out of this empty hole I thought I was in. The people in this community and especially
the guys in this house are each an opportunity to grow and learn from in my faith. When I choose
to take these opportunities, great things happen. Everyone in this house has something beautiful
to offer. Whether it Chris’ stoic presence but warm hugs, Robert’s assertion to say what he
believes, Josh’s loyalty to his brothers and our community, Blake’s ability to make me have fun
playing chess, Shobin’s Indian descent, Patrick’s love of the church, Jacob’s dedication to his
cause, Ben’s passion for worship, Andy’s genuineness, or Michael’s inspiring faith, it all inspires me.
September ended on a really good note. Our Lady of Wisdom University Parish hosts a
retreat that brings together each member of their larger community. It really didn’t matter if you
were a member of Saint Paul’s Outreach, or in FOCUS, or Mu Epsilon Theta, or Lambda Omega
Alpha, or even a practicing Catholic, all that mattered was the unity that brought us together
through our love of Jesus Christ. Yeah, this sounds corny as heck, for sure, but it was so real
becoming brothers and sisters with a solid group of pure genuine people and reaching a pinnacle moment in our spiritual journey with them. It was something I wasn’t really expecting. I first
signed up for the retreat to support some of the friends I made in our SPO community. Some takeaways were my first real confession revelations on decisions I had been discerning for months, friendships that actually mean something, lake-blobbing people 50 feet into the air, guys literally lifting me up so I could scale a cabin with them, being placed into a small group that was aposta-LIT, and just being genuinely happy all the time.
My life was changed by a smile, so my challenge to you is to smile; Smile all the time. And if it
hurts, offer it up.
Hello my name is Rachael Goddard I am a junior at Texas State University in San Marcos,Texas, and I’m studying Special-Education. This summer I had the amazing opportunity to go to SNE (The School of New Evangelization). I can honestly say that this conference changed my life and I am so grateful for Abby Trahan and all that she did so I could go on SNE! I am very new to the SPO community so for the drive up and the first few days in Ohio, I was very nervous. My nerves quickly faded as the Holy Spirit rained down on me while I was listening to amazing talks, and making new friends! Each talk I listened to had such great information about how to go out into the world and evangelize. After every talk I just wanted to come back to Texas and share the word of God with my friends, family, and sorority sisters. It was so awesome to have a small group during this week, they really helped me grow in my faith and it was super cool to get to know other girls who are a part of SPO, but live in different states. I loved hearing what they had to say, we formed such a great bond that week and I could see the Lord within all of them!
One of my favorite parts about SNE was when we did adoration together and during that time the missionaries were around the room ready to pray over people. I’ve never felt so at peace and loved before in my life. I got such great advice from one of the missionaries here at Texas State and I think about what she said daily. The words she spoke have helped me grow as a person and have pushed me to help others grow in their faith! I will never forget the amazing week I had at SNE! Since SNE I have had many opportunities to use what I had learned to help others! I have my own small group, I now have a little in my sorority, (Mu Epsilon Theta the National Catholic Sorority) I was able to co-lead a few people on a retreat here at Texas State, and I have been able to help my sorority sisters in their troubling times. I am so grateful for all that the Lord has given me these past few months and I can't wait to continue to spread the gospel!
As the school year wraps up here at Texas State, the fruit of our labors becomes more and more visible. One of the most beautiful things about reaching the end of a year with the same people is being able to look back and see that the challenges and frustrations of community life is always worth it. We are created to be in relationship, relationship with the Lord and with the people He's placed in our life, and it's exciting to see the ways that fighting for the goodness of relationships brings us closer to the Lord. There's been a bittersweet joy in the air the last few weeks as everyone can feel the year coming to a close. There's a joy in the friendships that we've been able to form and deepen throughout this year, and an eagerness in inviting new people into that. There's a desire to spend carefree time with one another: making brunch after mass, spending time at the river, and having good conversation around a bonfire.
Living in Households isn't always easy, and more often than not we learn that we have to choose to love those around us. We have to choose to:
- wash someone else's dishes for the fifteenth time that week
- enter into worship together despite our tiredness
- resolve conflict with a roommate even though it would be easier to let things slide
- commit and re-commit to the Formation program after a long day of classes
It's easy during the year to get caught up in the hard work of building good relationships, but the Lord desires deep and life-giving relationships for each of us. Choosing to love and to give generously without counting the cost leads to abundant life. At the end of the year, when we're able to pause and look at how far we've come in our individual friendships with one another and as a unified community, we are able to see the gift that these brothers and sisters are to us. Our hearts grow every time we choose to love those around us until eventually we can't help but to see the Lord in them and love Him there.
One of the most beautiful things we do in Households is what we call "honorings." We carve out time to affirm the good qualities in our brothers and sisters in person. We've been able to do this with each other a number of times in these last few weeks of school, and it's an incredible witness of how the Lord has worked in each of our friendships this year. Hearing what everyone has to say about particular people gives us a glimpse into how they have blessed each of us in the community; it gives us the joy of seeing how the Lord has worked in us over the year and provides a space to rejoice in the way we've grown closer to Him.
Praise the Lord for the opportunity to learn how to love well, to choose brotherhood and sisterhood, and to live in the abundant joy of relationship with Him!
Our men’s and women’s nights this semester have focused heavily on what it means to be men and women of God. Men can only truly learn how to become men from other men, and women learn from other women what it means to be a woman. These nights have created a great space for us to grow more deeply in our identities in the Lord through a series of talks and time for discussion.
Over the course of the semester, the men have been learning about the crisis and need for true masculinity in the Church. They’ve heard from various outside speakers including our campus priest, Fr. David, and Sam Schoenfelder, who flew in from the SPO Headquarters to speak on masculinity rooted in truth with Christ as the perfect example.
The women have embarked on a semester-long journey of learning about Theology of the Body, the world’s need for authentic femininity, and how their femininity and human sexuality play into who they are as daughters of God. They’ve heard talks on Theology of the Body from women who are in various vocations and stages of life, and learned about the New Sexual Revolution from a Catholic doctor in Austin.
The themes of these men’s and women’s nights have tied in well with our Formation series on “Becoming Christian Men and Women” this semester, and we’ve seen the fruit of this in the conversations students are having with each other. We pray these conversations will continue to deepen as we finish up the year at Texas State, and are excited to see the freedom that will come from learning how to embrace our true identities as men and women of the Lord.
"I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control" 2 Timothy 1:6-7
Our spring retreat, Fan Into Flame, was the first weekend in February, and we filled the Crossroads Retreat Center in Caldwell, TX with over 70 students from Texas State University. The weekend was full of incredible talks, testimonies, great community, and plenty of time for prayer.
Many of the college students we encounter have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit at their Baptism and Confirmation, but most have never actually claimed the faith as their own or put Christ at the center of their lives. This retreat gave students a space to meet the Lord again, and “fan into flame the gift of God” that is already within them.
The exciting thing about this retreat is that it was the first time in the SPO Texas Chapter that a retreat was almost entirely student led. We have some incredible leaders in our community, many of whom are living in our Households, and they jumped into leading this retreat without hesitation. Staff stood by to supervise, but the students did all of the heavy lifting: writing and giving powerful talks, leading small discussion groups, guiding us in prayer and worship, and making the newer students feel right at home.
The retreat was powerful for all of us; it built trust between staff and student leaders, and the students left feeling renewed and are more excited than ever to build up their relationship with the Lord through prayer and the sacraments.
by Ben Stefonowicz
When I think back on my college experience, there was one thing more than anything else that could get me to go to an event: free food. This was especially true at the beginning of the school year when I felt like I never needed to pay for a meal ever. Being a poor college student, anything free always always appealed to me, but if it was free steak, it was a game changer! A food that I deemed too expensive to buy myself was being offered for free? Sign me up!
I kept this knowledge in my back pocket as SPO kicked off this year's Barbasol Men’s Nights at Texas State University. We bought 80 pounds of steak and invited as many guys as we could. Armed with free steak, free Barbasol samples, and free t-shirts, we had the makings of a sure-fire success. Approximately 60 students came through and got their fill of steak, cooked to perfection, and stayed to enjoy a night filled with conversation, brotherhood, and a bonfire.
This seemingly casual night, however, was an intentional and great step, allowing men at Texas State to encounter something different. While they may not recognize it right away, there is something about true community and brotherhood that can be felt, compelling both curiosity and joy. It’s a first step in getting men to embrace the greater call in their life to be real men of God.
The best part about offering something as simple as steak and Barbasol shaving cream is that it may have the impact of bringing someone into brotherhood who otherwise wouldn't have experienced it; and being able to connect at the beginning of the year is an amazing gift. The combination of free food and goodies provided by Barbasol with true communal brotherhood from the men in SPO provides a perfect one-two punch to bring guys in and form lasting and meaningful relationships. And that’s good, because we’re just getting ready to embrace the punches with Barbasol Boxing Night right around the corner.
SPO Texas hit the ground running this semester with a challenging retreat called Two Kingdoms at War. Close to 50 students ventured into the quiet woods of Crossroads Retreat Center in Caldwell, TX, where they were empowered to enter the spiritual battle that’s been raging around them all their lives.
As part of our men's outreach, we put on a variety on men's nights throughout the semester. We use these events mainly as a "reach" event to meet new men and begin building relationship with them. We try to be as creative as possible with the events to make them both attractive and accessible to any man on campus.Read More
Earlier this month, the university parish at Texas State (Our Lady of Wisdom) hosted a Centennial Gala to celebrate 100 years of Catholic campus ministry. While the century has brought about various changes in name, location, and more, one thing about Our Lady of Wisdom has remained consistent: the Catholic faith.Read More
"Everything is bigger in Texas," including the amount of pig that can be consumed in one evening at a hog roast.
To kick off the 2015-16 school year with a bang, the men and women of SPO at Texas State hosted their annual hog roast on the deck of the men's household.Read More
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1) On a warm weekend in November, 16 men and 16 women had the opportunity to experience the freedom of Christ in a real and profound way.Read More