Ascension Presents…Good News and Good Media

6:30am: I wake up, well if you can call me ‘awake.’  Light is streaming into my bedroom but I’d rather just hit the snooze button and slip back into sleep.  But the phone persists, so I get up and shut it off.  And turn on my notifications to see if anyone has texted me.

8:30am: Morning Mass is done, so I say quick good morning’s and hello’s to the fellow sleepy eyed pilgrims on the journey to holiness and slip out to my car.  I have just a quick break for coffee and a car radio before class starts.  But before I pull out of the parking lot, I check to see if anything interesting has happened on Facebook while I was at Mass.

11:00am: Classes are done, and I’m off to work for the day.  My tests and assignments sitting snugly in the backseat.  I hurry along the busy streets, but at the stoplights, I’ll pull out my phone and check if there was anything that I had missed.

1:00pm: E-mails flood my inbox as the rest of the social media world begins to find it’s way into my life.  Work e-mails, school e-mails, student organization e-mails, and quick notes from friends swirl around, a constant sound of noise and interaction. 

6:00pm: Off of work, and onto night activities with friends, bible studies, dinners, or just homework.  Yet either way I flip on my screen to start up my drive home tunes, and return any calls that came through that day.

12:35am: Bed, finally.  My sleep eyes close, but I snap awake one last time to run down the dark stairway and plug in my phone so that the day can start on time in a few short hours.

Seem like something you can relate to? If you are like me, you may identify with the fact that millennials, according to The Wall Street Journal, can be present on some form of media 18 hours a day.  18 hours a day. 

What are we consuming?  Is it making us healthier? Happier? More content with the world we live in?  What about our faith life?  Are we growing closer to God through the media we choose to fill and crowd our lives with?  Does God even have a place in our media?  

I say yes.  And so does Ascension Press.   Oh, and so does Saint John Paul II, who once said, “The question confronting the Church today is not any longer whether the man in the street can grasp a religious message, but how to employ the communications media so as to let him have the full impact of the Gospel message.”  So if JPII agrees….what else do we need?
Ascension Press has recently released a new evangelistic platform called Ascension Presents.  It’s goal is to bring ‘entertaining, faith-filled, and dynamic presenters straight into your news feed.  By providing engaging content for our audience that reflects the good, the true, and the beautiful, we hope to bring their hearts closer to Christ.”


Good media….for God purposes.  



And they’ve done a fantastic job.  The website is chock full of amazing content, phenomenal presenters and great subjects.  There are four channels – different aspects of the faith life and media world to explore.

Father Mike Schmitz runs a channel himself, with videos concerning current events, movies, vocational discernment and the Bible.  Videos run about seven to eight minutes long and are formatted so that it feels like Father Mike is just sitting in your study room, having an old fashioned conversation with you.  The human connection.  Centered in Christ.  

In the promotional video for Ascension presents, Father Mike can be seen hanging with young adults around a outdoor patio.  Can we just make pocket sized Father Mike Schmitzs?  That way everyone can have a fantastic priest who really wants to connect with you on a personal level available anytime.

But because that isn’t a real possibiliity (yet, I’m still working on the science side of the cloning option), #askfrmike is a hashtag that was recently was released through the video series, which will allow viewers to interact with Father Mike as he answers questions that they may have about faith or life in general.

Father Mike is not the only big name of the Catholic world that can be found on Ascension presents.  Another channel is called “Caffeinated Conversations.”  In these video segments, Ascension Presents producer, Maria Mitchell, sits down with some amazing people in the Catholic media today.

Can we take a quick pause and appreciate the sheer awesomeness of this combination?  Maria is sitting there with people like Emily Wilson and Jason and Crystalina Evert(and their adorable newest little baby) while making coffee for them and life chatting.

Life chats.  Amazing Catholics.  Coffee.  Be right back, fangirling. 

There you can find interviews with Emily Wilson as she chats about fashion and relationships in the modern world, Bob Lesnefsky and Dirty Vagabond Ministries in Steubenville, and even the beautiful and talented Jackie Francois, as she chats about her newest little and authentic friendships and relationships.

Guys, it keeps getting better.  Hold onto your seats.
                                        

If I were to say what my all time favorite aspect of being a Catholic is, it would be that I believe in a faith where I will never know everything…there is always something to learn that will blow my mind about the beauty of God’s amazing grace and constant love.  The third channel on Ascension Presents does just that.  A series of videos that not only teaches the beauty of the faith, but combines it with amazing visuals of the Holy Land and the wisdom of people like Jeff Cavins, who has visited and studied the Bible and pilgrim sites for years.  But also in the studies channel is how-to guides on subjects such as prayer (ever wondered how to pray Lectio Divina?) and understanding the beauty of the Virgin Mary (What does perpetual virginity really mean?) 


                                     
Finally, the fourth channel of Ascension Presents is a beautiful mixture of cultural awareness.  Videos with topics such as the recently released Planned Parenthood scandal are followed by gorgeous music by the Ike Ndolo Band and Emily Wilson and their new song “Land of the Rising Sun.”  
                                          

Ascension Presents knocks it out of the park with their newest platform that appeals to young adults. Like their page on Facebook and be pleasantly surprised with the gorgeous artwork and articles that flood your feed.  Enter your e-mail onto their website and you can have their news delivered to your inbox on a weekly or monthly basis. 


The Faith does not mean an alienation from any culture for any people because all cultures await Christ and are not destroyed by the Lord.  In fact, they reach their maturity.
  – Pope Benedict XVI 

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#Lovewins

Love.  It’s a four letter word that appears quite a bit in our daily vocabulary, and frankly, in close to every other post on this blog.  Love plays a pretty large part in our lives. Yet what is love?  The world seems to have been asking that question a lot longer than Haddaway penned the words in 1993.

Real sex, real chastity, and frankly, real love involves real work. It’s not easy. But one of my favorite saints, St. Catherine of Sienna, once said “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”


Let’s start off by what love isn’t, especially in the light of the Supreme Court decision this past week.

Love isn’t use.

We’re called to love people and use things, but very often in today’s world we see others doing the opposite, and sometimes are guilty of it ourselves.  Steve Gershom, a Catholic who struggles with same sex-attraction, wrote this on the subject on his blog.

“Is it hard to be gay and Catholic? Yes, because like everybody, I sometimes want things that are not good for me. The Church doesn’t let me have those things, not because she’s mean, but because she’s a good mother. If my son or daughter wanted to eat sand I’d tell them: that’s not what eating is for; it won’t nourish you; it will hurt you. Maybe my daughter has some kind of condition that makes her like sand better than food, but I still wouldn’t let her eat it. Actually, if she was young or stubborn enough, I might not be able to reason with her — I might just have to make a rule against eating sand. Even if she thought I was mean.
So the Church doesn’t oppose gay marriage because it’s wrong; she opposes it because it’s impossible, just as impossible as living on sand. The Church believes, and I believe, in a universe that means something, and in a God who made the universe — made men and women, designed sex and marriage from the ground up. In that universe, gay marriage doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t fit with the rest of the picture, and we’re not about to throw out the rest of the picture.” 


It’s about not using others for pleasure.  It’s about not using ourselves, or letting ourselves be used.  And that saying ‘no’ to the culture of use (as pointed out BEAUTIFULLY in Laudato Si, Pope Francis’s newest writing) applies to all people, who are all called to love.

Love isn’t a trend or a passing emotion 

We toss around the word ‘love’ quite a bit in our daily vocabulary.  I love T-Swift’s 1989 album.  I love chocolate ice cream.  I love German Shepherds.  But this is love-as-a-passion, which can be pretty darn emotional most times.  It passes.  Next year at this time, T-Swift may not be my favorite.  I may get an inkling for Rocky Road ice cream.  And a chocolate lab may steal my heart.

But a virtuous and giving love doesn’t pass.  It bears all things, believes all things, and hopes all things.  And a good romance has a mix of both.  But it isn’t solely one or the other.  Love as an emotion or as a feeling can’t be used to define love.  Then you will constantly be in search for the next place to find your warm-‘n-fuzzy fix.  Love is a decision, that sometimes has to be made on a day-by-day (heck, sometimes on a minute-by-minute) process.

Love isn’t sex. 

This is perhaps the hardest to swallow, especially because it is the lie that is most promulgated by society today.  “If you really love me…” implies not how much one person is reflecting the light of Christ in the relationship, but if they are ready to take their relationship to the next level.  We live in a world where love = sex and there is no difference.  Adam Levine sings “Your sugar, yes please, won’t you come and lay it down on me?”  Sam Hunt wants to just take our time and Taylor Swift says that boys “only want love if it’s torture.”  Um…what?  That’s not love.  That’s an idolization of sex and an application of it towards the concept of feeling wanted.

According the Catechism of the Catholic Church, people are called to chastity.  Not ‘people who are attracted to the opposite gender are called to chastity” or “people who are attracted to the same gender are called to chastity,” but “PEOPLE are called to chastity.”

“All Christ’s faithful are called to lead a chaste life in keeping with their particular states of life. At the moment of his Baptism, the Christian is pledged to lead his effective life in chastity.”  (CCC 2348).  Our very Baptism urges us on in this quest against the cycle of use, and the reducing of the beauty of authentic, Christ-inspired love, simply down to the singular issue of physical sexuality. 

So what is love?

Love is sacrifice

Mother Teresa one said, “Love to be real, it must cost – it must hurt – it must empty us of self.” True love looks like a God coming down to earth, pouring himself into a human form and loving us despite knowing that He would hang on the cross because of the weight of our sin.  True love is stripped naked, hands splayed out on wooden beams, awaiting the piercing agony of nails being driven into his wrists.  True love?  True love is sacrifice.

“There is no place for selfishness—and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice”
–Pope John Paul II


Love is hard work.

Love is willing the good of the other as other and wanting to see them in Heaven and spend eternity praising God together.  And being that selfless goes against every fiber of our being.  Instead of wanting what is good for us and what makes us feel or look good, we have to put ourselves third, with first place going to God and second place going to others.

And because love wills the good of the other as other, it wills the good of both the body and the soul.  It realizes that true love, authentic love, can’t be engaging in the physical engagement of homosexual relationships.  It wants the good of the other’s eternal destination…and doesn’t want that person in any place but Heaven.  That’s true love.

#Lovewins.  

Yes, dear hashtag…it does.  But not in the way you think…or the way that today’s culture says it does.  No, #Lovewins because of this reason: “Love never fails.  Where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled.  There this knowledge, it will pass….and now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:8, 13).

Love wins because love doesn’t end.  True love is what Heaven is going to be – true love is the very essence of a God who has no beginning and will have no end.  True love is beautiful and amazing and something that every human being is called to take part in through Christ.

Love is the answer.  God is the answer.