Adding the Welcome Mat

During my Christmas holidays I decided to attenda national conference called Rise Up. This conference is put on annually by Catholic Christian Outreach, a university movement across Canada, and this past year’s conference was held in Montreal with around 600 university students in attendance. At first I was reluctant to go even though many of my friends were saying that it would be an amazing experience. I felt guilty about leaving my family for 5 days of my break, but I eventually agreed to go because I wanted to find a way to deepen my relationship with God and Rise Up seemed like the perfect opportunity to do just that. I had the pleasure of listening to many guest speakers and I learned something from each of them. I loved how Mass was bilingual and some of the guest speaker talks were in French.

There were several things that struck me at Rise Up:

* The idea that “We should be building bridges instead of walls”…I realized that over the years I have built many walls around myself in an attempt to avoid the pain my close ones and people have inflicted on me in the past. A picture of a turtle was shown during one of the talks…perhaps it is simple to recognize, but when a turtle is being safe to the world it reveals a cold, hard, and uninviting shell. I realized that I had allowed myself to become a turtle and that I no longer want to be one. This year I’m going to focus on building bridges and breaking down my walls. I know this will be a difficult feat, but with God anything is possible.

* The question: How can I let my doing for God be motivated out of trust in Him and love for Him and not out of impressing Him? I sometimes still have the tendency to be building a spiritual resume for God to read once I reach heaven, and that’s NOT what I want to do. It’s important to realize that God loves me and you, my friendly reader, and that this love is completely unconditional, so we do not need to impress Him in our doing for Him.

*The idea that ”We should accept our suffering and examine our cross”…I need to work on this as well. It’s much easier to complain about my cross and suffering, or attempt to ignore it,  instead of looking at it as a learning opportunity.

* I want to start focusing on what God wants and not what I want. In my humble opinion, the material world has no meaning compared to the greatness of the spiritual world.

* It’s not what we know, but WHO we know and what we’re concerned about. For example: A doctor of theology (the study of religion) could study long and hard and know everything about Catholicism, but still not know God personally.

* The truth in the idea “To know but not to do is really not to know”… This is inspirational  as I want to reach out to more people around me. I know God and I long to serve Him, but if I do nothing about it then what does that really say? With this said, I plan on leading another faith study this semester and saying “yes” to wherever He needs me to be.

* The Fear of Man can be consuming when it comes to sharing one’s faith. What will people think? What will people do if they know I love God and want to serve Him? Rise Up helped me realize that maybe people will WANT to hear what I say. Besides when people reject the message I’m sharing, they aren’t rejecting me, but rejecting the One who sent me.

* I want to see people as privileges and not as problems. I believe this will go hand-in-hand with my breaking down walls and building bridges.

As you can see, I’ve learned a lot from attending Rise Up 2010 in Montreal. I received a lot of answers to questions I’ve had. Among spending time with close friends, going to St. Joseph’s Oratory for mass, seeing St. Brother Andre Bessette’s tomb (the first Canadian-born Saint), and wandering around Old Montreal, the highlight of my experience was the complete surrender of my heart to God. Before, I had been hesitant to place complete trust in Him…I was afraid that maybe He didn’t know what He was doing with certain aspects of my life…funny, right? I know that the willing surrender of my heart was received by Him from the overwhelming sense of peace I received immediately afterwards. I now know, both in my mind and heart, that He loves me and only wants the best for me, but can only give me that if I open the door of my heart to Him all the way. Well, the door has been opened and I’ve added a welcome mat.

Anita Neumann is a CCO student at Dal and shares about her profound experience at CCO’s National Conference “Rise Up” this past new year’s. Anita has recently been accepted to serve on CCO’s mission project Impact Canada taking place in Ottawa this summer.

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