Friday, September 30, 2011

Wait, why is a cloistered nun the patroness of a missionary organization?

St. Therese is the patroness of FOCUS and October 1st is her feast day. St. Therese is one of the most popular saints and at first glance making her FOCUS’ patroness seems like a pretty normal thing to do...until you really think about. Why would an organization dedicated to missionary work chose a patroness who spent the entirety of her adult life in a convent far away from missionary work?

Three reasons

1. She prayed for and wrote to missionary priests.
When assigned to two missionary priests, she told her superior, “Mother, I did not know how to express my happiness.” She wrote to one missionary priest, “Let us work together for the salvation of souls…what encourages me is the thought that by your side I can be of some use.”

While it is helpful for the patron or patroness of an organization or cause to relate directly to it , the job of a patron or patroness is to provide prayer intercession. (St. Francis Xavier and St. Therese are the patron saints of missionary work and FOCUS).

2. She had an incredible heart for missionary work.

St. Therese once said, “I have the vocation of the Apostle (Paul). I would like to travel over the whole earth to preach Your Name and to plant Your glorious cross on infidel soul. But…one mission alone would not be sufficient for me, I would want to preach the Gospel on all the five continents simultaneously and even to the most remote isles. I would be a missionary, not for a few years only, but from the beginning of creation until the consummation of the ages.”

3. She sought to save souls through her own pursuit of holiness.

One author writes, “The religious life seemed to her primarily a means of saving souls. She even thought at one time of becoming a nun in the foreign mission; but the hope of being able to save more souls by penance and sacrifice was responsible for her decision to enclose herself in Carmel.” (Carmel pictured left).

St. Therese’s missionary work continues today through others following her example and through her intercession.

St. Therese, pray for us.

All quotes are from St. Benedict & St. Therese: The Little Rule and the Little Way by Dwight Longenecker.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bible Study Tips - Praying for your Bible Study

Since our battle for souls is first and foremost a spiritual battle, it is essential to pray for those in our study on a consistent basis. We must remember it is God who changes lives, not us.

One practical way to do this is by utilizing 3x5 note cards. At the end of each Bible study, ask each member to give a prayer request. It is fine if they ask you to pray for someone else (for instance, a sick loved one or a friend struggling with an addiction). At the same time, ask them to state a request specifically in regards to their own relationship with God (for example, a spiritual goal they are working on).

When the Bible study is over, take the 3x5 note card you have assigned to each member and write their prayer request on the note card. Then, during your prayer time each day, pull out your 3x5 note cards and express these intentions to God.

In the end, nothing can replace prayer as the foundation of your Bible study. Make it your first priority.

To read more on how to pray for your study, click here.

To read more on how to lead a Bible study, click here.

To read more on your own prayer life, click here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bible Study Tips - Hospitality

Hospitality - The Right Environment
As the day of your first meeting draws near, set up the right meeting spot for your Bible study. Have a place that is inviting and comfortable for your group to come each week. Here are some tips to help make this happen:

  • Find an accessible and informal location that can be used or reserved each week. Dorm rooms and possibly hall lounges can work well as long as they are free from distractions and noise (and as long as your roommates approve.) Be sure there is enough room for all the members to be comfortable and to see one another.

  • Schedule a time when all of your group members can attend. As a rule of thumb, Monday-Thursday nights usually work the best.

  • Provide food and refreshments, especially the first few weeks. What college student doesn’t like free food! It also gives a natural activity for people to participate in as they arrive and begin to converse.

  • Bring extra Bibles in case a member doesn’t bring one.

  • For more on how-to be hospitable or how-to lead a Bible study, click here.

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    The Pope Apologized for What?!

    Each year, Pope Benedict gathers his former students together with him for a summer retreat that analyzes a specific topic. This year the topic was the New Evangelization as the Pope prepares for the Bishop's Synod on the New Evangelization in 2012. And along with this topic, the Pope made an interesting apology.

    But, before we discuss the apology, let's review. The New Evangelization is the re-introduction of the Gospel to persons and cultures who were once Christian, but who have fallen away from an active living of the faith. For more on the New Evangelization, see our previous article.

    Referencing a passage from Jeremiah and the theme of the New Evangelization, Pope Benedict prayed, "In this time of God’s absence when the earth of souls is arid and people do not yet know where the living water comes from, let us ask the Lord to show himself to us. Let us ask him to show those who are seeking the living water elsewhere..."

    Then, Pope Benedict, who was surely still reflecting on World Youth Day, added, "Let us ask him, especially for young people, that the thirst for him may come to life within in them and that they may know where to seek the response."

    Finally, the apology, "And let us, who have been acquainted with him since the days of our youth, ask forgiveness because we bring so little of the light of his face to others, and emanate so feebly the certainty that 'he is, he is present and he is the great and complete reality that we are all awaiting'".

    The apology is striking. It is easy to make evangelization a extra-curriculur activity in the Catholic Church and have the attitude that "some are involved in Knights of Columbus, some help out with the Church festival, and some evangelize." In the end, evangelization is not an option; it is a requirement of our Baptism and Confirmation.

    Failing to do so should cause all of us to repent.

    For the full speech, click here.

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Three Purposes of a Bible Study

    Small-group Bible studies are an important part of FOCUS' work on campus. When training students and missionaries on how-to lead a Bible study, I like to ask: "Why do we lead Bible studies?" and then play devil's advocate. It is easy to lose track of why we do the things we do.

    Below are the three purposes or goals of leading a Bible study. They can serve as three indicators for how your study is going.

    Deep Transformation: Through interaction with God’s word and one another, it is our hope that the lives of your Bible study members will be profoundly changed. The purpose of a Bible study is not to simply learn information or to be a part of a Bible study club, but allow the Lord to transform our lives. Specifically, we hope that students, through Scripture, are drawn more intimately to our Lord in the sacraments and liturgy of the Church where they can most fully receive the gift of God’s grace in their lives.

    Intimate Fellowship: If people are going to be deeply transformed, they will need others along the way, not only to help this transformation, but also to make sure they continue this transformation in the future. Your goal as a leader is to take a group of people with various backgrounds and personalities and help them form authentic relationships with one another.

    Spiritual Multiplication: Another important dynamic of small groups is their ability to be reproduced. As you lead, pray that the Lord will raise up members of your small group to go on to disciple others and to lead Bible studies of their own.

    What other indicators can help someone determine whether or not their study is thriving?

    For more: Check out our How-to Lead a Bible Study series

    Friday, September 9, 2011

    FOCUS Outreach Videos

    Here are three videos that were created by University of Nebraska students for their FOCUS Fall Outreach efforts.

    Very impressive!

    Dos Equis

    Old Spice

    All State

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    The Crux - To Preach Christ Crucified

    The Christian missionary Jim Elliot once said, “Lord, make me a crisis man. Let me not be a mile-post on a single road, but make me a fork that men must turn one way or another in facing Christ in me.”

    How do we become crisis men and women? How do we live in such a way that people see Christ in us? How do we articulate who Christ is in a way they can understand? These are the ultimate questions of evangelization and questions that FOCUS continues to ask as we encounter thousands of college students each year.

    One concrete effort in this area is FOCUS' new Bible study, The Crux. The Crux is a five-week study designed to give the participant the opportunity to understand the person of Jesus Christ. The climax of the study is an invitation for participants to make Jesus Christ the center of their lives.

    The title of this study comes from the Latin word crux which means “cross.” It follows the example of St. Paul, “to preach Christ crucified” so that others may come to know the love that God has for us (1 Corinthians 1:23). The word crux today also refers to a place of decision or turning point.

    In many ways, it is designed to live out Jim Elliot's quote about making us forks rather than mile posts. We want this study to be an experience where the participants can gaze upon the cross of Jesus Christ and come to a decision about Him in their own lives. Presenting the person of Jesus Christ within the context of a Bible study allows the person to not only hear about Jesus Christ in Scripture, but to hopefully see the person of Christ in their leader and others in the study.

    After testing out this study last year, this is our first year "officially" using it out on campus. Anyone can download the study for free on

    Have you seen The Crux yet?

    What do you think?