If someone were to have asked me what “living life to the full” meant at the beginning of the summer, my response would not have been sacrificing a summer away from my family to work with a Catholic group. I would have said it would involve being with friends, camping in the mountains and traveling to new places.
God is funny in how he works.
In my “yes” to attend FOCUS Summer Projects this past summer, he fulfilled all my superficial desires. More importantly, he placed deeper desires on my heart so that I can fully pursue him. This transformation could not have happened without the guidance of FOCUS missionaries and student leaders. Much of FOCUS’ mission comes from Acts 2:42; and in that framework, I found a Christ-centered life: life lived to the full.
“They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” – Acts 2:42
Teaching of the Apostles
This summer was an opportunity for intellectual formation and growth. Formation came in two main ways: weekly Bible studies and a weekly speaker series. The Bible study I was in looked at salvation history. It focused on the series of covenants that God made throughout the Old Testament and how Christ fulfilled them all. I led one week of the study, and the experience showed me the work it took to lead a study along with the joy that came with it.
The speaker series was phenomenal, and speakers came in from across the country. We had talks about the Holy Spirit, the Eucharist, virtue and human anthropology, to name a few topics. My personal favorite talk was given by the director of Summer Projects, John Bishop. In his talk, he covered the topic of the Theology of the Body. The Theology of the Body is a teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II in which he outlines that since we as humans are made in God’s image and likeness, we ought to be oriented toward God through the study of our bodies. This fascinates me, and I desire to study this topic further. The formation I received this summer opened my eyes to the depth and beauty of the Church’s teaching, but it also led me to desire God with my heart after first being drawn to him with my mind.
The Communal Life
The community of students at our Summer Projects location in Colorado Springs was unlike any other that I have been a part of, and it showed me what vibrant Christian fellowship should be. Our friendships were rooted in Christ and not in worldly desires. It was common to sit down with another student and have a serious conversation about how God was working in our lives. With every relationship oriented toward God, we all grew incredibly close as a community. The proximity of living together helped. We all lived in one wing of a hotel, and being so near to others provided the opportunity to spend time together.
FOCUS also provided time for us to grow as a community in the form of incarnational days. These were days each week that we were contracted off work. The events of each incarnational day varied from simple pleasures, such as tubing or volleyball, to working in ministry with Christ in the City, a Catholic organization that helps the homeless in Denver. My favorite day was when we served at Avodah Farms. Avodah means “work and restoration” in Hebrew, and their mission is to provide a living space for women who have been sex-trafficked. These women are housed with Catholic nuns and surrounded by young families so that they can see authentic love. In addition to serving women, the ministry works to show young men what authentic masculinity is and how to love so that they can go out in the world and live a life that inspires other men.
An important aspect of community to mention is our communities in the workplace. The goal of FOCUS Summer Projects is to teach college students to integrate vibrant Catholic living with a full-time job so that, once graduated, students will not dispose of their faith. We as students were employed full-time by the Broadmoor Resort. I worked at one of their restaurants, The Golden Bee, as a food runner. My time there gave me an appreciation for the service industry for the hours they work and the work they put in. Working also provided the opportunity to bring Christ into The Bee. I learned to be open about my faith and grew in confidence in having conversations about God with coworkers and customers alike.
The Breaking of the Bread and Prayers
While the community was the most fun aspect of the summer, the availability of the sacraments and adoration for prayer was the most impactful. There were priests living with us throughout the summer, and they provided Daily Mass every morning immediately followed by a holy hour with adoration. The sacrament of reconciliation was also available to us.
Throughout the summer, I was able to see a change in my heart with my view towards the sacraments. I initially enjoyed going to Mass because there was a community there; but as the summer progressed, I found myself desiring to go to Mass. This came from my initial intellectual growth that translated into a change in heart as I mentioned earlier. I came to realize the importance of prayer and the sacraments. Without them, we are spiritually dead. I also came to the humbling realization that I did not set aside enough time in my first year of college for prayer. This summer revealed to me that I need a relationship with God and to know him before ordering the rest of my life. Prioritizing attending Mass and prayer every day sparked a fire in me to continue that practice here in Moscow.
This summer was so full that I am unable to perfectly describe everything, such as our retreat, the camping trip and Funk Night. Here’s a link to an end-of-summer video that offers glimpses of the joys of the summer. If you present yourself, and give God time to work, he will change your life.
Click here to learn more and apply for FOCUS Summer Projects.