Archdiocese Local Schools Youth & young adult

‘Life is a love story’

Catholic apologist Chris Stefanick speaks to nearly 600 people gathered for his “Reboot” talk on Nov. 15 at Horton High School. The event was sponsored by St. Leo Parish in Horton. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

by Marc and Julie Anderson

HORTON — Life-changing.

That’s how 17-year-old Sarah Hutfles, a member of St. Leo Church in Horton, described “Reboot,” an evening featuring internationally acclaimed Catholic apologist Chris Stefanick. 

Planning for the event started a year ago when Ronda Smith, another parishioner, attended the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis.

“Chris was the keynote speaker at the opening session, and I just liked how he shared the Gospel,” said Smith. He was simple, honest, authentic, direct and entertaining. 

Later, Smith found his booth and worked with his Denver-based nonprofit, Real Life Catholic, to schedule an event.

Sponsored by St. Leo’s, Reboot was held Nov. 15 at Horton High School. Nearly 600 attended the event. Geared toward anyone age 12 and older, the evening consisted of two talks, the first of which focused on the Gospel. 

“Life is a love story,” Stefanick said. “Now why is that amazing? Because think about this: You and I were made for love.”

Showing a baby picture of one of his six children, he continued, “We’re always looking for love.”

Calling the Gospel “the most amazing love story ever,” Stefanick said if the love story is removed from the Christian faith, then the faith becomes a set of rules, rituals and doctrines disconnected from real life.

“That’s how the world has come to see it,” he said, “because they forgot the love story.”

If Christians remember the love story, he said, they will experience a “joy that doesn’t depend on people, a peace that doesn’t come from circumstances and a hope that not even death can take away from you.”

There is a longing, he added, in everyone’s hearts to know and love God — and all the riches and material success in the world will not satisfy that longing.

How do we come to know God? The same way babies learn who they are. 

“You know how they learn who they are?” he asked. “It’s not by looking in a mirror.  It’s not by looking at their accomplishments. . . . It’s not by looking at their failures. 

“They learn who they are by looking at Mom and Dad . . . They learn right away they are precious.”

The Gospel, he said, is like that. 

“When we remember the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he continued, “we remember who wins, what life’s about and who we are.”

Of course, Stefanick said, that requires a response from us.

Comparing it to a marriage proposal where a “yes” changes everything, he said, “Let’s say ‘yes’ right now so we can enter a love story that’s amazing.”

In his second talk, entitled “Live the life you were made for,” Stefanick shared five habits of holy people, the first of which is that holy people love themselves. 

“You’ve got to love yourself with your words,” he said. “The words you choose to speak to yourself shape your self-perception. Your self-perception shapes your actions. Your actions shape your life.”

Cultivating a life of prayer, Stefanick shared, is the second habit. Even just 10 minutes spent in thanking God and talking to him about what’s in your heart can be beneficial.

A third habit that Stefanick discussed is sharing the faith.

“You don’t have to be perfect to share your faith with your actions,” he noted. “You just have to be authentic.”

Stefanick said God often places people in our paths so we might share our faith with them.

When his wife’s grandmother was dying, Stefanick prayed for the right words. She had never gone to church, so he shared the story of the good thief with her. The next day, she was received into the church; a day later, she died.

Often, people are afraid of sharing their faith, he said, but he encouraged the crowd to pray God might send them someone to share the faith with every single day.

The fourth habit to develop is the habit of friendship.

“God is calling us to intimacy in our friendships,” Stefanick said.

In order to develop intimate friendships, he encouraged those gathered to pick two to five people with whom they can get together monthly for conversation and prayer. 

The fifth and final habit, Stefanick said, can be summarized in one word: reboot.

“You have a right to forget yesterday,” he said. 

Repeating himself, he said, “If you miss that point, you miss the whole point of Christianity.”

Concluding, Stefanick said he cannot promise practicing the five habits will make everyone’s problems disappear; rather, he can promise something else:

“When you walk closer to Jesus in your daily life, it will change your life.”

About the author

Marc & Julie Anderson

Freelancers Marc and Julie Anderson are long-time contributors to the Leaven. Married in 1996, for several years the high school sweethearts edited The Crown, the former newspaper of Christ the King Parish in Topeka which Julie has attended since its founding in 1977. In 2000, the Leaven offered the couple their first assignment. Since then, the Andersons’ work has also been featured in a variety of other Catholic and prolife media outlets. The couple has received numerous journalism awards from the Knights of Columbus, National Right to Life and the Catholic Press Association including three for their work on “Think It’s Not Happening Near You? Think Again,” a piece about human trafficking. A lifelong Catholic, Julie graduated from Most Pure Heart of Mary Grade School and Hayden Catholic High School in Topeka. Marc was received into the Catholic Church in 1993 at St. Paul Parish – Newman Center at Wichita State University. The two hold degrees from Washburn University in Topeka. Their only son, William James, was stillborn in 1997.

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