Loving People Around You is a Choice

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!

Men and Women Pursuing Identity

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.

Texas Students Step Up and Lead Peers in Retreat

"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.

80 Pounds of Steak Draws Large Crowd for Men's Outreach

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.