Awaken Competition Winners Part 3: Music and Essay


“Even our soul itself becomes more beautiful when beauty meets us, takes holds of us, and fires us with enthusiasm.”
– Dietrich von Hildebrand

What Is Awaken?

SEEK21 Participants from across the nation answered the call to create in the chaos of 2020. With their music, art, and writing, the finalists of the Awaken 3.0 Competition shared their gifts to give SEEK21 attendees the chance to see beauty as a bridge to the Divine, a window to encounter the Person of Christ. To congratulate our winners of Awaken 3.0, we’d like to share their work with the world! On behalf of the Beauty Initiative within FOCUS, Papercastle Records, and Love Good, we invite you to awaken to the mystery of Christ through Beauty.

Music Winner

Parker Staub – Student at George Washington University, Gettysburg, PA

Very Good


Essay Winner

Tanner Kalina – Missionary at the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO

On My Future Spouse

I’m just going to say it.

We’re obsessed with marriage.

Young people in Christian circles are completely consumed with all things matrimonial. It feels like the subject matter of every book, podcast, and blog. Dating (or the lack thereof) feels like the subject matter of every small group’s “rose, bud, and thorn.” It doesn’t take long for a group of young singles to turn their conversation into a sounding board for future vocations, future kids, future dogs, future yaddy yaddy blippidy blap. It can be suffocating. It can be isolating. As such, it can often be annoying.

I admit my own fault here. As a practicing, single Catholic-man, I desire a wife. Straight up. I’m just as guilty as the next guy for talking about it ad nauseam.

As gross as this marriage-mania can be, it’s ultimately a thing of beauty. Our culture only continues to grow indifferent towards marriage, sex, kids, love. It’s a real gift to be a part of a group of people who uphold the family. It’s a radically different subculture submerged in a dangerously radical culture. The family is the basic unit of society, but it’s increasingly under attack.
I’m just going to say it.

There are far worse things to be obsessed with.
So, even though it’s tempting to bash our wedlock-whimsy or harp on the woes of being an unmarried amidst a community that prizes the married, I’m going to indulge this longing that’s so clearly written into our hearts. I’m going to befriend this desire, sit in the ache, and deliver a big ol’ battlecry for marriage.

What follows is a war letter to my future wife. I write this as I sit in the trenches, fighting in the spiritual war on family. This is a letter to ease the pain of separation, a pain you likely share if you’re single. Single or married, though, I invite you to read this letter and join me on the front lines. Let my words become your words. We need strong marriages. They create strong families, which in turn create a strong society. We need you.


Hello, My Bride.

My Love. Hi.

It’s wild out here.
Abortion. Contraception as default. Same-sex marriage. The transgender craze. Marriage rates reaching all-time lows. It’s a dark time for us. Thinking of you gives me hope, though.

Which is funny. I don’t even know who you are. I don’t know where you are. I don’t know how I’ll find you. I don’t know when you’ll find me. I don’t know.

What I do know is that God is why we’ll be together. The reason we desire union with each other is because we desire union at His Infinite Banquet, and it’s because of our awaiting Eternal Ecstasy that He desires us to have a foretaste together. That’s the promise woven into our being.

I like that word, “promise.” It’s everything. Truly. It’s stronger than law, thicker than blood. It transcends time, fills space. It only grows, even though it’s free to fall. “Promise.”

I want to promise you. I don’t have to know you yet in order to make these promises. I promise because He first promised me. It’s who I am. It’s who I will be. It’s who I can offer you. No matter who you are. No matter when we unite. No matter what we feel, I promise to promise.

I promise to love you for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer.
I promise to love you in sickness and in health, till death do us apart.
I promise to make it my daily mission to get you closer to Heaven.
I promise to pray for you constantly.
I promise to pray with you constantly.
I promise to find Mass for us every Sunday, no matter where we are.
I promise to keep Jesus at the center of our marriage.
I promise to defend you and “shamar” our family.
I promise to stand up for you if someone disrespects you.
I promise to teach our children how to peacefully defend themselves.
I promise to not stop pursuing you once we say “I do.”
I promise to never let a day go by without telling you that you’re beautiful.
I promise to take you on a weekly date.
I promise to pour you the bottle’s last ounce of wine.
I promise to share the stereo on road trips.
I promise to share my life with you. What’s mine is yours.
I promise to make your favorite dessert for your birthday. I unfortunately can’t promise that I won’t eat it all.
I promise to take you to your favorite band’s concert whenever they roll through town.
I promise to let you hold the popcorn at the theater. I unfortunately can’t promise that I won’t eat it all.
I promise to learn your love language and adapt to it as best as I can.
I promise to support you in your career.
I promise to help you brainstorm ideas if you want help.
I promise to back off if you don’t want help.
I promise to let you decorate our room…within reason.
I promise to bring my issues with you directly to you.
I promise to indeed have issues with you. However, I promise to look at those issues as opportunities for us to grow as opposed to looking at them as setbacks. I promise to seek outside help if we have a particularly difficult time resolving an issue.
I promise to never give up on us.
I promise to have an open and welcoming home.
I promise to try to be hospitable with all of our guests. Note: I said try, but try I will. I promise to help create an atmosphere of community wherever we reside. I promise to embrace wherever we plant roots and enjoy the things unique to that place.
I promise to be active in our parish.
I promise to love your family and friends as best as I can. I promise you I will fail at times, but I promise to do my best.
I promise to remain loyal to you.
I promise to take time for myself when it’s needed, and I promise to allow you the same.
I promise to annoy you, both playfully and accidentally.
I promise to make you laugh.
I promise to make you cry, but I promise to be there when you do.
I promise to be open to life with you.
I promise to be open to even more life with you.
I promise to fight discouragement if we have a hard time conceiving. I promise to be open to adoption.
I promise to cherish our children.
I promise to raise them as best as I can. I promise you I will fail at times, but I promise to do my best.
I promise to not let my love for our children usurp my love for you. You’re my number one. Always.
I promise to have family vacations.
I promise to help with laundry.
I promise to cultivate our family’s culture.
I promise to take turns putting the star on top of the Christmas tree. I promise to make it my daily mission to get our children closer
to Heaven.
I promise to never let a day go by without telling our daughter(s) that she’s beautiful.
I promise to never let a day go by without
telling our son(s) that he’s heroic.
I promise to never stop holding your hand.
I promise to never stop sneaking a kiss when you’re not looking.
I promise to hold you if you weaken before me.
I promise to let you hold me if I weaken before you.
I promise to love you to the end.
I promise.

Thank You to Our Awaken Partners

Carly Rupp
Carly Rupp
After serving at Coastal Carolina University as a FOCUS Missionary, Carly now serves the Beauty Initiative in the Formation Department of FOCUS. She holds a Bachelors in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Violin Performance from Belmont University in Nashville, TN. Before joining FOCUS, she spent her time serving as Concertmaster of the Belmont Symphony & Chamber Orchestras, playing concerts at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, and studio recording in Nashville. Her violin has taken her around the world for concerts in NYC, Disney World, the Czech Republic, and Germany. When she’s not playing violin, Carly enjoys hiking 14ers, reading Josef Piper in her hammock, expensive coffee, golfing, and lake life at her family cabin in Wisconsin. She currently resides in Denver, CO.

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