Every year, my diocese hosts a weekend youth retreat for high school students. I started participating when I was in Grade 9 and always counted the days until the next one. It has been a wonderful experience and has helped me to grow dramatically faith-wise.

However, this year’s retreat was cancelled due to lack of registration. The diocese needed at least 25 youth for the retreat to take place; only six signed up. When I heard the news, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe so few people were interested. It certainly wasn’t for lack of quality or hard work by the diocese, so how could it happen?

Finding the meaning of life

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OTTAWA - In life, there are roads that lead in every direction. Some are winding, some bumpy, some smooth and some branch off in different directions. In life, there are endless choices, but we never know where these paths will lead, so for better or for worse, we choose.

We choose for different reasons, but one contributing factor in my decision-making has always been faith. When I was  in the second grade, I remember my brother had this book, Bart Simpson’s Guide to Life, which I’d sometimes steal and flip through. There was a recurring joke that said, “Turn to page ___ to find out the meaning of life.” Every time you turned to the page it listed, it would just lead you back to a different, answer-less page. I remember finding this trivial, just because (having gone to church every Sunday my whole life) I couldn’t understand why people didn’t know the meaning to life. Apparently I was the only one who knew it, and it was simple in my mind — to spread the word of the Lord.

Adjusting to married life

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It amazes me: as I write this, I have been married only two and a half weeks, yet my marriage has already been full of lessons. Those who’ve been married for many years might laugh and say there are many more to come. But right now I’m incredibly excited and awestruck at the fruits brought into my life by my marriage to my husband Joseph. 

The wedding was an incredible, unforgettable day that seemed to go by too fast. It was snowy on Feb. 14, the sun illuminated the church through the stained-glass windows and the translucent material of my veil softened my view of everyone around me so that it almost didn’t seem real. The look on Joseph’s face was all that mattered to me, and as his eyes met mine, my heart actually started beating faster. It was a real-life chick-flick moment, but my reality was so much sweeter.

Danger in censorship

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Although we live in a society that is growing increasingly accepting and we are able to discuss subjects that may be perceived as controversial, the amount of censorship that is still alive and thriving enrages me.

I can’t even read a novel such as The Wars or The Coldest Winter Ever without hearing criticism about how graphic or inappropriate the material is. I believe that controversy over a topic is the beginning of contemplation, discussion and eventually acceptance.

Lent — the season of giving

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Secular society generally views the Christmas season as the season of giving but what we often forget is that giving is a big part of the Lenten season as well.

Giving is practised through alms giving, particularly during Lent because we are honouring the fact that Christ gave so much for us. As Catholics, we are all called to give in Christ’s name.

Pilgrimage a spiritual journey

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When I was younger I had the chance to visit Rome to climb and pray on the Santa Scala. Tradition has it that these steps were part of the praetorium of Pilate in Jerusalem and that Jesus is thought to have climbed when he was sent to Pontius Pilate to be judged. The steps are considered to be so holy that pilgrims are asked only to ascend on their knees as a sign of respect and worship.

As a child of 12, I failed to grasp the true significance of this experience. Yet despite my minimal understanding, when I participated to the best of my ability, I was still able to feel a connection with God. To this day, it is still one of my most cherished memories as a practising Catholic. At the time I had not known that I had embarked on a pilgrimage. All I understood was a deep feeling of peace and thankfulness. When many hear the word “pilgrimage,” the image that comes to mind (and at one point, my own as well) is a journey. A time to put aside our lives and travel to a country or city which houses a significant religious landmark. Unfortunately, those who use this definition may hold the mentality that they are not able to partake in one due to expense or availability.

Real freedom has self-control

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Everybody wants freedom. Everybody deserves freedom. Freedom is not simply a privilege; it is a responsibility and a right.

But what is freedom? According to one classmate, “freedom is being able to do whatever one wants.” Something about that definition didn’t sit well with me.

Movies, motives, mamma mia!

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In my first lecture on religion and film in January, the professor had us question our attitudes towards culture through the use of movies. He said that film is the best medium to find out about the problems that exist within our culture. I agree with him, but only to an extent.

I saw his point about movies as the means for finding out problems in our culture, but as the class continued he failed to point out if it is necessary to have a lot of these problems exposed.

Friendship first, dating later

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“Sam, do you have a boyfriend yet?” I hear this question more times than you would think. Most people are surprised that I have never gone on a date in all of my 16 years. I find that most people are confused by this, both people my own age and adults.

In today’s society, usually the idea is that if you are single you should be searching for a relationship because you can’t possibly live happily without one. I know that not every person believes this, but it can be seen in our books, movies, television, music and daily lives. The belief is that we can’t be content as singles. But is that really true?

Caring about the family

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Family. There is nothing so precious in this world as your family. While this may sound cliché and overused, it is true.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a family is “a group of individuals under one roof and usually under one head.” However, the most appropriate definition I believe is “a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation.” I think this comes closer to the family that I am a part of. Whether it is saying “Grace” together before meals, sharing a prayer during the hard times or simply celebrating the Eucharist together at Mass, it adds only to the layers of family I share in.

More than just an athlete

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Behind every serve, every free-throw, there is an athlete performing at his or her full potential to represent their team as best as they can. To everyone around them, they are just another volleyball or basketball player, however there is much more to that athlete than the jersey he or she wears.

Throughout my years of playing high school sports, one thing I have learned is that the dedication and responsibility to maintain high-quality grades and show up to every practice, which may sometimes last until 5:30 p.m., every night are not easy.