In the summer of 2006, my soon-to-be youth group traveled to a Steubenville youth conference.
In September of 2006, God touched my heart at the exact time I opened it to Him, just the tiniest bit.
A rush of warmth came over and then, an explosion of sparkles and prettiness all around me (more on that some other time.)
At that moment, I left my atheistic ways and completely gave my life over to God.
The next week that soon-to-be youth group became my church family, my best friends.
And all they ever talked about was Zoolander, plans for the upcoming weekend and their amazing experiences at Steubenville.
Their stories were about powerful encounters with Jesus and “the best praise and worship ever.”
Our youth group would be going on a mission trip to Mexico that upcoming summer, so me being a senior, I knew my chances of a Steubenville experience were long gone.
Fast forward 16 years …
This summer I spent a weekend at a Steubenville youth conference, chaperoning my parish’s youth group.
*Yes, dream come true. Thank you, thank you! Pass the Kleenex*
When I heard the youth group was in need of another female adult for the trip, I
jumped at attacked the chance of experiencing this conference.
Now, I’m gonna lay it all out there.
Sure, I was happy to hang out with some teens. My passion had been in youth ministry for years, but when baby after baby came, my focus had to shift.
So, of course I wanted these kids to like me, but let’s be honest, this was about me getting the Steubenville experience.
On an early Friday morning, I stepped out of my car in the church parking lot, saw a bunch of hyped up teenagers, pillows and blankets in hands, and I felt a deep desire to truly know each and every one of them.
I couldn’t stand not knowing them. I didn’t even know their names and I felt this crazy need to know their souls!
Once our charter bus took off, I forced myself to wait an appropriate amount of time before going total adult-loser on them.
When that appropriate time came, we danced in the aisle to High School Musical.
As the weekend unfolded, these kids stole my heart.
They shared their stories with me and listened while I bothered them with mine.
We laughed, cried, and praised Jesus whole-heartedly.
They expressed their frustrations, their worries about life and faith.
They broke my heart as I listened to their hurts.
We rapped to Christian music and encouraged each other through some awful dining experiences.
These kids gave me a weekend in Heaven.
To my most grateful surprise, these kids were my Steubenville.
Now, you might be thinking; “That’s all great buuut, what does this have to do with Humanae Vitae?”
Well, I’ll be happy to share.
All of these kids have a mom, a dad, a grandparent who said “yes” to life.
Because of their “yes,” my life has been blessed beyond belief. Truly.
See, Church teaching is hard. And, it can be very easily seen as annoying rules that are thrown at us simply because the Catholic Church is so out of date.
But Church teaching isn’t here, just ‘cause.
It’s here to save our lives.
It exists, thanks be to God, for our own good.
Look at this mess we are in, folks.
Look at how Pope Paul Vl, through Humanae Vitae, warned us all.
When the creation of Life, a Human Person, is looked at as something that must be “dealt with,” we have completely lost sight of who we are as People.
Why did God ever begin creating humans?
To love! YOU and me.
Whether our parents created us out of complete love or not, OUR God made us because He wanted us alive so HE could love on us. All we have to do is allow His love!
Those youth group kids, every single one, added so much in their own way to my life.
Some were born to loving families, others have had a harder go at life.
I hope one day they will understand what a treasure they are, by simply being.
I pray that one day soon, all of those kids see themselves as their Father in Heaven sees them.
I pray that one day soon, we will all see ourselves as our Father sees us.
He doesn’t see a pill as an answer to freedom.
He doesn’t see a double line on a pregnancy test as the end of the parents’ lives.
He sees a creation of new Love.
What if we started seeing Life for what it is and will be?
A heartbeat that will grow into someone’s husband.
Tiny fingers that will grow into hands of a surgeon.
Little toes that will grow into feet that take her on missionary work to save the nations.
A pure, innocent soul that will grow to become someone’s life-long best friend.
Humanae Vitae is a reminder of who we are.
With this 50th anniversary, I hope we are all reminded.
We need that reminder now more than ever.
Copyright 2018 Stephanie Stovall