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Seven Life Lessons From Crossroads: Lesson Six

July 13, 2018
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This is the first group photo the central walk took together after I arrived. Say hello to “America’s Loneliest Road” along the desert in Nevada.

 

Humans are made to be in community with others.

 

This statement may seem obvious, but it is something I’ve developed a newfound appreciation for over the summer. In college, I had a strong, devout Catholic community who encouraged me to grow in my relationship with God and learn more about my faith. After graduating a few years ago, I have yet to become a part of another strong and young faith community. That is, until I again walked on Crossroads.

Imagine being part of a group of mostly the same-aged young adults united in faith and a common mission to witness to the dignity of life. We are from states across the country. We went to both Catholic and public high schools and colleges. We grew up doing everything from surfing to sledding to detasseling corn. Despite our diverse backgrounds, my central walk members have meshed and formed a tight knit faith community.

As someone who attended public school at every grade level, I greatly appreciate when I am able to pick up Catholic nuggets from those who went to a Catholic school. Upon hearing others on my walk discussing religious books they’ve enjoyed, I’ve written those down in a note on my phone. I’ve already ordered five books and hope to acquire more down the road. God works and communicates through other people, and there have been many of His messages conveyed through my fellow walkers this summer. As shared in a previous blog post, there is so much to learn when you listen! 

 

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At a private abortion clinic in Reno, Nevada, the central walk joined a local pro-life group in praying a rosary. 

Praying together has been a huge blessing. Each day on Crossroads you pray morning prayer together with your walking shift and then night prayer together as an entire team. There’s just something special about praying together communally. Did you know that when you pray a rosary together as a group, the graces are shared among all those praying? I learned this from one of my fellow walkers. So if you are like a sleep deprived Crossroads walker who is walking and not quite as focused as he/she should be (that’s never happened to me before… right?), the graces gained by those more awake, focused, and meditative will be shared with all praying.

 

 

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Finding notes like this in the support van is one of the many reasons I love my team. Thanks for the laugh, Jim!

And through the sleep deprivation, the learning from each other, the discussions, and the prayers, we’ve managed to just have fun together. Our walk leader bleeds Nebraska Cornhusker red blood, so anonymous members of the team took it upon themselves to plaster over 20 of the state rival Iowa Hawkeye logos across the RV, in the fridge, the shoe bin, the baby shoes above the door, and even in his sleeping bag. I think there might still be one on a window of the RV, and these went up over a month ago.

 

When we were in Lincoln, NE, we spent hours scouring the town in an attempt to find Scott Frost Nebraska t-shirts for the new Nebraska fans on the team. I’m not sure which was funnier – that we never did find the Scott Frost t-shirts or that a Connecticut native bought Husker merchandise for basically everyone he knows. He is now more emotionally invested in Nebraska than I am, and I’ve been a Nebraskan my entire life.

 

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Central crew, we Nebraskans would love to see you if you’re in the area. You know you’ll miss the good life!

Even though I will likely never see some of these entertaining, dedicated, and devout central walkers again, I love them dearly and know I will continue to think of and pray for them all of my life. Just like my northern walk team from 2013, I am blessed to have known these young men and women and to have them shape my life.

 

People are meant to live and work together. So if you see Catholics who aren’t going to church or are not involved in parish activities, invite them to go with you to Mass or to help with a church event. Keep inviting them. Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know very well. Cherish the time you spend with your friends and family, and always pray. You never know what difference you are making. Your actions could be the only Bible some people will ever read.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!

God bless,

Sarah, Central Walk 2018

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Seven Life Lessons From Crossroads: Lesson Seven

July 14, 2018

The world is a much better place than you think it is.

 

If I were someone who just moved to the United States and could only judge it based upon what we see in the mainstream media, I would assume the United States is a dangerous, unfriendly, and godless place. How very wrong I would be.

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Thomas walked barefoot on a rainy Monday in Nebraska. Thank you everyone who stopped to check on us!

I have been completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support our walk has received across the country. In Colorado we met Luke, a man who stopped us on the side of the road to thank us for what we were doing and offer us a place to stay at his house for the night. In Utah, Helen and I met a couple who pulled up next to us on the roadside and gave us ice cold water bottles. Thomas and I had five different vehicles stop to check on us as we walked through a cool, drizzly rain in Nebraska. 

Each weekend all summer and on the occasional weeknights we have a host family, the families have been gracious, attentive, and kind. We have been well fed (and beveraged – is that a word?), well entertained, and well loved. As you read in one of Helen’s previous posts, with a host family we went horseback riding. Our host families have also helped us go kayaking up and down a river, brought us to a museum, invited us to a young adult game night, lit a campfire so we could make s’mores, played board games with us, and more. We’ve had amazing conversations and felt so loved. Every time we’ve stayed with a family, it has given us much needed taste of home. Thank you so much to everyone who has hosted us!

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Thank you to all the Catholic parishes, families, and individuals who have helped us this summer!

The Catholic community support has been strong across the country. My Mass partners and I were treated to breakfast at three straight parishes after giving parish talks on weekends. In Denver, a few walkers met a man named Alan at a church who invited the entire team to a lake for a grill out, swimming, kayaking, and volleyball. Thank you Alan and family for such a fun afternoon! Thank you Father Tai, a priest in Utah who heard about our mission and insisted we stay at the rectory with him. He made us authentic Vietnamese food and served those of age homemade wine. Thank you to the elderly Catholic woman we met outside a Walmart who was nearly moved to tears as she spoke with us and was moved by our mission. Thank you to Greg and Marian in Missouri who saw us at a daily Mass and opened their home to us after hearing about our mission.

This post sounds like a post of thankfulness to the people we’ve met along this journey. It is also a post of thankfulness to God. Without Him, meeting these fine people and being able to safely witness to the dignity of life this summer would not be possible. I believe it is so easy to look at the world and our corrupt society and become disheartened. Walking Crossroads truly restores your faith in humanity. There are still good people in the world. God is alive and well in the hearts and minds of people across the country. He works through others. He works through the kindness of our host families and parishioners at the parishes we meet, through the words God intended us to hear spoken by a teammate, through the priests who say a special Mass just for us, and through the smiles of the children we meet in governor’s mansions, gas stations, and grocery stores.

The response from those we encounter on highways has been overwhelmingly positive.  I can count the number of times I’ve gotten the finger this summer on my hands, but I have gotten a thumbs up or happy honk more times than I can count. People have only ever pulled over to interview us, check that we are okay, or to thank us for our witness. The back of our t-shirts say “America is pro-life,” and it is true. We as a nation recognize that life is sacred and should be treated as such. This walk has renewed my hope for America’s future. Perhaps someday, through the grace of God, our culture of death will be transformed into a culture of life. Until the day that happens, I will pray, pray, and pray some more.

Thank you all for your support along our journey, and thanks be to God for allowing me to undertake the craziness and joy that is Crossroads a second time.

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A very special thank you to my 2018 Crossroads family (one member not pictured). You have made the journey a memorable and joyful one.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!

For the last time, God bless,

Sarah, Central Walk 2018

Seven Life Lessons From Crossroads: Lesson Five

July 12, 2018

 

mountains

This is the view from the top of a mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Mountains are obviously very beautiful, but we have been blessed to find beauty all over the country.

 

Take time to appreciate and thank the Lord for the little things in life.

For the first several weeks of our walk, I felt like we were on a pilgrimage to beauty just as much as a pilgrimage for life. We’ve been through some beautiful country. We have walked through the Sierra Nevadas, the Rocky Mountains, the tree covered hills of Missouri, and the salt flats of Utah. We’ve seen crazy amounts of wildlife, sunrises, and sunsets.

 

 

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Walking along a highway in the northernmost part of Missouri, this Nebraska girl appreciated the beauty of these cornfields.

But something that struck me as we were leaving the Rocky Mountains and entering Nebraska (Go Big Red!) was that even the ordinary and everyday can be beautiful. Not everything in life can be the beauty of clouds resting atop a mountain or waking up to a sunrise in a canyon. Why not appreciate the simplicity of rain clouds over a hill or the sunrise over a cornfield? Why not take the time to enjoy everyone’s favorite smell, petrichor?

 

There are many little things I’ve come to appreciate on Crossroads. The heat has really made me value shade and a cool breeze. It’s amazing how much of a difference a little shade makes. It feels like a huge temperature difference. Over the past few weeks in addition to the heat, it has also been quite humid. As a result, any time there is a cool breeze I say a quick “Thank you for the breeze, Jesus.” Almost nothing feels better than getting rid of the sweat that has accumulated on your body! Just a few of my other little things were singing Irish songs with my team, seeing the grins of team members when someone made a bad pun, and laughing together at the rise of the general sarcasm and sassiness level when we are all sleep deprived.

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Another beautiful sight: seeing this sunrise near cornfields in central Nebraska.

We get so wrapped up in our fast paced lifestyle that we fail to notice the little things: the smile on a relative’s face, an encouraging word from a friend, accomplishing everything on your day’s mental to-do list, or having a warm mug of hot chocolate on a cold day. We focus on the have-nots, the next big thing that we desire. Even if we achieve our goals, we are constantly focused on what we want and not what we have.

If this is the way we live our lives and fail to recognize the value in the blessings we have – our faith, families, freedoms, and so much more – we will never be happy. In the “Be Satisfied With Me” prayer attributed to St. Anthony of Padua, he writes, “I want you to stop planning, to stop wishing, and allow Me to give you the most thrilling plan existing . . . one you cannot imagine. I want you to have the best. Please allow Me to bring it to you.” While this prayer appears to be written about an unmarried person trying to find his/her spouse, these lines apply to our everyday lives. If we stress over and only focus on what we don’t have, we can only be miserable. Instead, if we focus on the little blessings we are given each day, imagine how much more joy we will have and share with the world around us?

So how do we appreciate what we have been given? Count your blessings and praise God for them! Live each day with a smile on your face, even when you don’t feel like smiling. Stop comparing yourself to other people; you are on a unique path that God has made just for you! Lead your life with great joy.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!

God bless,

Sarah, Central Walk 2018

Seven Life Lessons From Crossroads: Lesson Four

July 11, 2018

 

walking

Walking through Colorado, central walkers discussed everything from religion to superheroes. On the road when you aren’t praying, you have the opportunity to learn about and learn from those you are walking with.

Listen. You never know what you’ll learn.

 

Confession: In my life outside Crossroads, I’m a junior/senior high school teacher. As a teacher, I am used to being the person who is listened to. But one of the best parts of my job is discovering what I can learn from my students when I take the time to listen.

Similarly, when I take the time to sincerely listen to the words of those I am walking, cooking, grocery shopping, etc. with, there is so much to learn! The group of young people I am privileged to call my teammates are intelligent, devoted, and kind human beings. In a group of similar aged people with a common goal, we’ve of course had discussion about pro-life issues as well as other theological, religious, and political issues. You wouldn’t believe how much I’ve learned over the course of the past seven weeks with them.

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Something I didn’t elaborate on in this post is talking with parishioners. Here some of the central walk crew are speaking with members of St. Benedict’s parish in Nebraska City. We were invited to a meal and discussion at engage night.

I have learned much more about the lives of the saints. For example, I absolutely adore Saint Mother Teresa. I’d previously read about her life and knew about her dark night of the soul, but I learned much more about what that entailed from a fellow walker. For over fifty years she suffered through much more than just a sense of God abandoning her. I’ve enjoyed learning more about St. Louis de Montfort and his amazing devotion to Mary and the rosary. I loved sharing the saint story of Saints Gwynllyw and Gwladys (known in English in a corrupted form as Woolos and Gladys Farfog). I first heard about it on a Catholic podcast, and it’s possibly one of the funniest saint stories I’ve ever head.

Being young men and women, we’ve had many fruitful discussions about masculinity, femininity, gender roles, and how these roles relate to vocations. It is heartening to know that in a society with twisted ideas on how men and women should behave and interact, there are still young people who recognize the manner in which God wills men and women to exist together.These discussions ultimately lead to a discussion of vocations. As a result of these conversations, I spent an entire week of Crossroads dedicating my rosaries to an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life, for clarity for those struggling to discern their vocation, and that God will grace us with the courage to accept and carry out our vocations according to His will.

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Learning about your teammates means you can do fun things like plan a party for a member complete with birthday cake, a nice meal, and a pinata filled with candy.

On top of intellectual discussion, listening allows us to get to know, relate to, and better understand how to interact with others. We have all types of personalities and backgrounds on our team, and I’ve really appreciated the diversity. How boring would it be if God made all of us the same? By listening, truly listening, to others, I’ve learned how much all my team members love their family. I’ve learned what it’s like to grow up in a huge family (I grew up in a family of four). I’ve learned what different members are interested in – everything from sports to philosophy to being eco-friendly – so that I can learn more about what makes them God’s unique creations. There is so much I could write here, but I’ll leave it at that I am blessed to see God working through these young people who convey, perhaps unknowingly, messages that God intends for me to hear. Listening to and learning about and from my team members has only brought me closer to God. All praise and glory be to our Lord!

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!

God bless,

Sarah, Central Walk 2018

 

Seven Life Lessons From Crossroads: Lesson Three

July 10, 2018

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On top of a mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park, I pulled out my rosary to snap this picture. We prayed multiple rosaries on our way through.

Pray, for prayers are so powerful!

 

Another element of Crossroads I truly appreciate is prayer. The life of a Crossroads walker is a life of constant prayer. As we walk, we are praying rosaries, divine mercy chaplets, prayer novenas, and more. We pray both communally and personally. As we attend Mass, we are able to meditate upon the words of God. When we walk in silence, we are able to meditate or walk contemplatively and rest with God.

In a previous life lesson post, I briefly explained some of the challenges we offer up on Crossroads. I truly believe prayer is the reason we have made it safely through the walk thus far. We’ve already had someone nearly step on a rattlesnake and two walkers jump off the road shoulder into the grass to avoid getting hit by a vehicle driving on the road’s white line. Personally, I can say our Blessed Mother kept us safe walking through Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. There was one point where we had to walk less than five feet away from a bull elk who was eating along the side of the road. Tom, Thomas, and I prayed a Hail Mary to her for safety and kept walking. The elk stared us down as we slowly walked past, but he never charged at us. Thank you so much everyone who has prayed for us!

One of my favorite parts of Crossroads is praying for the prayer intentions in our prayer intentions notebook. For those of you who have never heard a Crossroads walker give a Mass talk, something we do on Crossroads is collect prayer intentions from the parishioners at the churches we visit each weekend. Then during the week we pray for each intention written in the prayer intention notebooks. It is both humbling and an honor to be entrusted with the prayers of others.

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We stayed in an RV park in the middle of a canyon in Utah. It was a night of many fun memories.

Personally, there was one other prayer encounter I found particularly memorable. When we were in western Colorado, there was a night when we were literally the only RV camping in an RV park in the middle of a canyon. There we met a man named Jim, a friendly older man who loved what we were doing. He brought us snacks and just sat with us chatting for a few hours in our RV. Before he left for the night, he asked if we would pray for a relative of his. Of course we said yes! When we were done with the prayer and ended together with an Our Father, he was almost in tears.

When was the last time you prayed so genuinely, so passionately, that you were moved to tears? How often do you say “I’ll pray for you” but later forget to do so?

Prayer is our response to God’s invitation into a relationship with him. Crossroads has been a constant reminder of God’s great love for us. If He loves us, of course He hears our petitions, trials, praises, and words of thanksgiving. So pray! Pray for those you promise to pray for. Pray for the needs in your own life. Pray for the unborn, for those in need, for the development of a culture of life, and for an increase in vocations. Pray prayers of thanksgiving to God and rejoice in the small graces He has gifted to each of us. Sit in contemplative silence, appreciating quiet time with the Lord.

I know in my hectic adult life outside of Crossroads, finding adequate time for quality prayer is a challenge. So my challenge to both myself and to all of you is to find time to pray. Not only does prayer work miracles, but it is the best way for us to grow closer to God.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!

God bless,

Sarah, Central Walk 2018

Seven Life Lessons From Crossroads: Lesson Two

July 9, 2018

God gives you challenges in order to help you on your path to holiness.

 

As one might guess, sacrifice is a big part element of Crossroads. As we walk each day, our feet develop blisters. Some even bleed. We get bug bites, rashes from plants, and have close encounters with cars on the road and wild animals. (Rattlesnake convention in western Colorado, I could live the rest my life without ever encountering you again!)

misery

Here we are walking through the heat and humidity of Missouri. We’ve affectionately nicknamed the state “Misery.”

While walking, the weather is hot, and it can get extremely muggy. For the past few weeks, we’ve been walking in a heat index of 100+ degrees each day due to the high temperatures and humidity. I know this is nothing on what the southern walk is experiencing right now (God bless them!), but it has still been pretty miserable. You know it’s bad when you sweat and the weather is so humid that your sweat can’t evaporate! You’re basically walking in your own personal sauna.

I would argue the biggest physical sacrifice we offer up is the lack of sleep. Our morning shift typically leaves camp thirty minutes before sunrise so that we can get to where the afternoon shift left off and say morning prayer together before walking. This means at the beginning of the summer we left camp around 5 am, and now with a later sunrise, around 5:30 am. The afternoon shift picks up walking around 2:00 pm and walks until sunset, so generally they don’t arrive back to camp until at or after 9 pm. By the time we’ve had supper, prayed evening or night prayer, cleaned up after supper, showered, and everyone has their bed materials, it’s late. According to my Fitbit, two weeks ago I was averaging just under four hours of sleep a night and last week I was at four and a half hours. Afternoon shifters get a little more sleep, but not nearly enough. There is a reason we appear exhausted when you see us!

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Who knew it could already be so humid at 4:47 am in Nebraska? Hello, morning shift!

 

On top of the physical sacrifices that we offer up, there are other sacrifices as well. Living in close community with other people is a blessing, but it can also be a challenge. Just like growing up with siblings, even though you love those you walk with, there are always going to be some habits that bother you and disagreements between members. Learning to accept each other’s differences, compromise, and understand when to let things go is something we all strive to do. As a former Crossroads worker and priest from St. Joseph, Missouri said, one person’s sins will help other people.

The end of Matthew 22 discusses the greatest commandments. After explaining that the first is to love God with all of your heart, soul, and mind, in verse 39 Jesus says, “The second [commandment] is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” When we encounter one another’s sins, we are called to focus on valuing others as we value ourselves. We are challenged to die to ourselves and carry our cross with Jesus.

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Here you can see the Central Walkers (minus one) relishing their time in Lincoln, Nebraska at Memorial Stadium. Yes, we have our differences, but I love each one of them! We have become a family over the summer.

Being separated from family members, significant others, and friends is a challenge for many Crossroads walkers. With a limited amount of free time, making time for phone calls or video chatting is challenging. Most of these conversations happen late at night before bed, resulting in less sleep. Choosing to sacrifice conversations in favor of more sleep isn’t fun either; it’s important to maintain relationships and not appear to have fallen off the face of the earth.

But here’s the bright side: as we offer up our sufferings, we become more dependent upon God. As we learn to die unto ourselves as we live and work together, we become more Christlike. Yes, it isn’t always fun or easy to suffer, but finding the joy in and recognizing the fruits that come from our suffering is a beautiful part of the Crossroads experience. I pray that each of you are able to join us in carrying our crosses each day, striving to decrease so that He can increase.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!

God bless,

Sarah, Central Walk 2018

Seven Life Lessons From Crossroads: Lesson One

July 8, 2018

Hello everyone! My name is Sarah, and this is unfortunately the last week that I am able to walk with Crossroads this summer. I knew going in that I would only be able to walk seven of the twelve weeks, but what a blessed seven weeks it has been! 2018 is my second year walking Crossroads (I did the full northern walk in 2013), and I can honestly say Crossroads has permanently changed my life. I thought that in this last week of the central walk, I should share some of the life lessons learned through our prayer pilgrimage.

 

Life lesson number one: We aren’t in control. God is.

On Crossroads, a basic rule is to always expect the unexpected. We may think we have solid plans for the week, but inevitably at some point plans go awry. For example, early in the summer our RV’s fridge already went out, so we had to throw out everything it contained and bring in the RV to be fixed.

 

da arvee in granby

Thank you to the business who fixed our RV! The couple who owned the shop was extremely pro-life and put our bumper sticker on the middle of their desk.

 

A few weeks down the road, the RV’s battery wouldn’t charge even though the alternator (the part that charges the battery) had been replaced or fixed – I can’t remember which – earlier in the year. It should have been working, but because it stopped charging the battery, we had to bring it in to be fixed when we were out in Colorado. Because the business didn’t have the part we needed to replace it, they had to drive to get the part. It ended up taking nearly an entire day to get the RV fixed.

Crossroads walkers attend daily Mass every day. Our walk leader does an excellent job finding a parish for us to go to near our route, but every once in a while the parish website or catholicmasstime.org is off. Typically when this happens either a) we’ve missed mass entirely, or b) we’ve arrived hours early and have to go out to walk longer before coming back to the church for Mass. Let me give a huge THANK YOU to the priests who have said a special Mass just for us when this scenario has occurred. We appreciated it so much!

 

da fiyah in coloradoooooo

Plans gone awry: literally watching the birth of a wildfire in western Colorado and having to avoid it while walking!

 

Crossroads really forces you to put your full trust into God. You never know who or what you will encounter. We’ve had walkers walk feet away from an elk, jump off the road to avoid being hit by a car, and engage in conversation with a counter-protester outside an abortion clinic, people who see our shirts in Walmart parking lots, and those who encounter us in grocery stores. While we may think we know how to go about walking or having a quality conversation with others, it doesn’t always go as planned.

How often do you get frustrated when things don’t go the way you want them to go? How often are you frustrated when you have to follow the directions of someone else instead of doing what you want to do?

Human beings believe they are the ones in control, but really God is the one running our lives. It can be scary, terrifying even, to give Him free reign, but ultimately He will take care of us. So many times this summer things could have gone so wrong, but instead our summer has been filled with so much beauty and hope. I pray that we can come to accept and desire God’s direction along the path He has planned for each one of us.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!

God bless,

Sarah, Central Walk 2018