Lucy Herth Graduate and a personally Invited Christian
I was raised in a small catholic town and was the type of person who went to church every Sunday because that is what your parents told you to do. I would not say I had a relationship with Jesus personally, but I knew who he was. I had some catholic friends that would go to things with me, like youth group events, but I had an "I would only go if they would go" type of mentality.
In 2016, the summer before I went to college, I attended Would Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. This was such a blessing because I fell deeply in love with the Catholic Church and wanted to be Catholic for myself and not just because my family was. It was the first time I experienced young people genuinely excited about their faith. They expressed this overwhelming joy within them that was so attractive, and I wanted that in my life! I was on fire for my faith, but reflecting back, I do not think I understood what it meant to have a relationship with Christ. I attended Mass a lot and prayed the rosary. However, I could not find friends who would go to events with me. As my first year of college went on, I filled my time with other things besides Christ and his church. I still attended Mass, but I often was by myself.
I have always had amazing friends in high school and college! Friends who love me for me. One of those personal characteristics that my closest friends are aware of is that I prefer to not make plans. I was the girl who would hang out in her room on Friday night instead of asking someone to come over. Thankfully, I am incredibly blessed, and my friends who knew that were the ones to invite me or invite themselves to hang out with me. I never struggled with making good friends who shared similar values with me. That was until I had to start over and all alone.
In the spring of 2018, I studied aboard in Ireland. Although I put on a face for my friends and families back home, my first month there was extremely hard for me. I went by myself. I had to start over making friends, get out of my comfort zone, and ask people to hang out or worse, invite myself to hang out with them.
My roommate and her friends were so lovely, and they let me hang out with them. However, they did not really share the same values as me, and I did not want to change who I was. I did not find it enjoyable to go to pubs every night. After a couple of weeks, I started becoming a little depressed and incredibly lonely, which are two things I had never experienced before. I probably cried every night that first month… I tried making new friends, but no luck. I honestly just wanted a church buddy. I went every weekend and some during the week, and there was no other young person (I was attending at the wrong time). I was indeed friend-sick, and my friends that also studied abroad had a similar experience. One of these friends knew someone in Ireland, and they were Catholic! After spending time praying and starting a devotion to our blessed mother, I began to meet a lot of young Catholics. Through a chain of events and meeting different people, I ended up at an event and drinking tea afterward (how Irish of me). At this event, which was at my school I was attending, I met a group of girls who would come to change my life forever. How did they change my life? Well, it was a simple invitation to the Breakfast Club. The Breakfast Club was a small group that would go to Mass in the morning and had porridge (oatmeal in American term) and tea afterward. We even made shirts! Because Jesus did say, "come and have breakfast."
Now, this was not just "any" invitation. Like most of you, we all have been "invited" to go to an event of some sort before. I usually do not go to things by myself, and especially if I do not know anyone. This invitation was different to me because they did not just say, "Hey! You should come to Mass and have breakfast" They said, "Hey Lucy! We are going to go to Mass and eat breakfast in the morning, would you like TO COME WITH US? We even live right by you and we can WALK TOGETHER".
Now that is precisely what I was longing for. My prayers were finally answered, and might I add abundantly! I was just looking for friends to go to Mass on Sunday with, but hey, we ended up going every day and doing so much more to grow in our faith. I learn so much from these girls, my seminarian friends I made, and the community that we hung out around. I learned what authentic friendship is and how an invitation to enter someone's life can have a powerful impact. We are not just growing in friendship, but we are also challenging and leading each other to Christ. I finally understood what it meant to have a relationship with Christ and be a true disciple of his.
My last week in Ireland, I was listening to my priest's homily from back home. The sermon was about an atmosphere of welcoming vs. inviting within a parish. This homily assisted the reflection on my experience that I had so far in college and abroad. Father Jonathan Meyer, said we need to be Christian people who are inviting, and not just welcoming. He gave the two definitions. Inviting means making a polite, formal, or friendly request to someone to go somewhere or do something. Welcoming means to greet someone who is arriving in a glad, polite, or friendly way. The Lord left us with the Great Commission. Jesus commanded us to go out and make disciples of all nations. He did not tell us to just wait, and people will come. Being an inviting person presupposes that you are a welcoming person, but being welcoming does not mean you are necessarily inviting. We have to ask ourselves when was the last time you invited someone to enter into your life. I ask you to be the person to invite someone to a meal like my friends in Ireland did, to just spending time together, to go on a mission trip, a pilgrimage, or a retreat. That one invitation can be a triggering event in someone's life to make them a disciple of Jesus. As a missionary disciple, we are called to invite people into discipleship and relationship with Jesus Christ. Go out and change lives. Go out and help others to experience Christ with you!