World Youth Day 2013 was the trip of a lifetime. I remember it like it was yesterday, even though I’ve had countless adventures since– some of them even being abroad in Europe.  This gathering of millions of pilgrims from throughout the world was unique and unrepeatable. We were able to see Pope Francis, the first Latin American pope, ride by in his popemobile down Copacabana beach as we chanted “Papa Francisco” with millions of other Catholics from throughout the world.

On our way home we held praise and worship in the Rio de Janeiro Airport and bonded over the incredible experiences of the past few weeks, during which we prepared spiritually and physically for the World Youth Day gathering, travelled to Rio, and took part in the different events of JMJ that took place there. I exchanged Facebook credentials with many people from different countries and have successfully kept in touch with a number of them. We exchange Facebook messages full of prayer intentions and eager anticipation of World Youth Day in Poland, where we will hopefully reunite to celebrate our Catholic faith once again.

For me, World Youth Day was more of an energizing & encouraging witness than any sort of sudden realization about my faith… I tried as hard as I could to be open to what God had in store for me, and I truly believe that I got as much as I possibly could out of it because of my efforts to stay in the mindset of a pilgrim, constantly persevering through the hardships that accompany the pilgrimage experience. A huge part of what I gained on this trip was growing in the virtues of patience and temperance. There were more bumps in the road for us on this trip than anyone could have predicted, and through the frustration I learned to accept and trust in God’s will in a way that I’ve never been able to do before.

Reflecting on all of this today– when it has been nearly a year since we started preparing for World Youth Day– I am astounded at how much my experiences on that pilgrimage prepared me for what I have encountered in the past year. I have developed a new perspective on life: that life is a pilgrimage, and we are all pilgrims on a journey towards heaven. And while we are on this journey, it is critical that we stay close to the Lord in any way we can. The importance of things like participating in the sacraments, adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and spending a little time each day on spiritual reading cannot be stressed enough. It is how we can know that we will be able to overcome the obstacles that lie before us, “for nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)

Video  —  Posted: November 4, 2013 in World Youth Day 2013, World Youth Day Preparation
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Hey Mom & Dad,
Just wanted to let you know what I do in my free time haha… this is an article that infuriates me and I wrote a response that I thought you’d enjoy, so here’s a link to the article, a couple quotes & my response:
  • Article:

  • And a couple quotes:
“The human body naturally performs “abortions” almost 20% of the time.” …
“If you believe that a zygote is a human, you actually kill more babies by refusing to take birth control.”

  • So obviously this article made me mad… so I had to respond with:
The term “abortion” refers to any artificially induced premature expulsion of a human fetus, whereas when the body naturally induces premature expulsion of a fetus, which this article maintains happens 20%, it is a miscarriage. In each case, YES- a new life is terminated and the zygote dies, but they are undeniably two very different things. In the situation where a woman is on birth control, she has the intention of terminating that new life, while in the case of a miscarriage, she does not.
This article points out that the woman’s body ends up naturally “reject[ing] 18% of fertilized eggs,” and uses the fact that the body naturally rejects fertlilized eggs in some circumstances, often for reasons unknown, in order to suggest that the . Equating the occurrence of a miscarriage to the action of deliberately taking a pill in full knowledge that “breakthrough ovulation” is possible AND that the oral contraceptive you are taking works to cause your body to reject a zygote in the event that an egg is fertilized […], is just downright disrespectful.
A miscarriage, by definition, is NOT the intended result of any action the mother took. It is ignorant to apply the moral quality of the action of taking an oral contraceptive, no matter the amount of occurrences of “breakthrough ovulation” & post-fertilization abortion “per 100 women taking oral contraceptives,” if but one “fertilized egg is… dispel[led],” the moral name for the action is abortion. So I completely disagree with the statement “you actually kill more babies by refusing to take birth control” because what happens when a mother experiences a miscarriage is NOT the killing of a baby, but the result of a natural occurrence within the body that has nothing to do with any sort of intervention by the mother.
What I think is tragic in our society today is that many people don’t even know that the female body– by itself, without any artificial hormones– has a powerful and natural way of spacing births and avoiding pregnancy at certain times for various different reasons. This is such a shame because it is SO AMAZING to see and understand how the natural fertility cycle of a woman’s body works. It is something that all men & women can and SHOULD come to understand by looking into how Natural Family Planning (NFP) / Fertility Awareness Methods work. People decide not to pay any attention to natural methods of birth control out of sheer laziness or selfishness– or perhaps because of society’s relentless obsession with perpetuating the objectification of women, I don’t know– and settle for the Creighton Method– PLEASE KNOW THAT I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT THE “RHYTHM METHOD”- HUGE difference— has been found to be 98.8% method effective and 98.0% use effective […] in avoiding pregnancy).
My problem with birth control is not just that it works as an abortifacient– which as the article itself acknowledges, along with many other sources […]– but that its use by people today not only encourages destructive and irresponsible behavior but also regards the female body as being bad in itself, which it is not. The way artificial contraceptives are used today basically reduces the incredible natural process of a woman’s fertility cycle to something that needs to be “fixed” or “controlled,” as Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger suggests in Chapter 5 of her book, Woman and the New Race, entitled “The Wickedness of Creating Large Families.” The widespread availability of birth control has also made it that much easier for men to take  women for granted, and it increases the likelihood (both psychologically and physiologically) that he will fail to appreciate the beauty of the female body. When a woman is on the pill, it basically gives a man the freedom to get what they want without worrying about the dreaded “consequence” of there being any possibility that he might be tied down in a relationship with one woman for the rest of his life.
I love the idea of using fertility awareness throughout my life to avoid pregnancy rather than settling for artificial forms of birth control because it is so *empowering* for me as a woman to be able to understand how my body can NATURALLY accomplish all of the things that artificial birth control tries to do– just WITHOUT any of the disastrous side effects. That concept is SO COOL to me. But the biggest and most important reason that I look forward to being able to practice Natural Family Planning with my future husband one day is because of the incredible benefits that come with the comparably small sacrifices you make in working together as a couple to achieve or avoid pregnancy naturally– the way it should be done.

Our group was featured in our local newspaper today!!! @vcstar @WYDUSA @wyd2013rio #wyd #JMJ

— TheCulturedCatholic (@tccwyd2013) July 25, 2013



Wow, I can’t believe we’ve been in Rio for four whole days already!! So much has happened in that amount of time. We arrived at the Rio de Janeiro airport, made it through customs and found our dear friends, who moved to Brazil from California about a year ago, so they could help us get situated in Rio. Since then, we have walked along Copacabana beach, ascended Sugarloaf Mountain, and visited St Sebastian Cathedral amidst a host of official World Youth Day activities.
It has been a nonstop adventure it seems, except that the other day we paused our journey for about thirty minutes for an over-the-phone interview with Ventura County Star reporter Jean Moore to talk about our trip so far. It was good for me to take a step back from the whirlwind of youthful energy in the streets of Rio; it helped me see even more clearly how lucky we are to be able to be here with all of these passionate young Catholics to witness to the love of Jesus Christ and the Church.

This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I am putting in the extra hours (during which I could be sleeping– ugh I wanna sleeeep!… but i gotta finish this post :P) to share bits and pieces of our World Youth Day experience with you, my eager readers. Please spread the word about this blog and connect to our social networking sites:《facebook: ; twitter: @tccwyd2013》so that anyone who desires to share in this amazing witness to the faith can learn how to be joyful, cultured Catholics in our world. ♡

Hey everyone! Only 5 days until we leave on our trip to Rio for World Youth Day!!!

I hope you are all excited to share in our World Youth Day 2013 experience! Here are some links to the various social media pages where we will be posting to update you throughout WYD:

– Youtube:

– Twitter:

– Facebook:

(… and of course…)
– WordPress blog:

Spread the word! Share with friends on facebook, twitter, and email, and please pray for us on our journey!

Thank you & God bless!
— Jessica

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 2.03.42 PMFollow our journey at World Youth Day 2013!
Here are some tips on how you can stay up to speed and follow along from home while we’re in Brazil:

* World Youth Day July 22-28- Don’t Miss it! Check out the free EWTN App, now available here.
* On the go? Take WYD Rio 2013 with you by downloading the EWTN App for iphone/iPad, Android or KindleFire- watch the live broadcast, follow program schedules, and Video on Demand.

Even if you can’t be there with us physically, you can come along virtually by following our video blogs as we share our pilgrimage experience, and you can watch EWTN’s live stream of World Youth Day events!!  So get excited… ‘cuz you’re coming too! :Dwyd-2013

We are currently testing out our equipment for recording and videotaping while we are in Brazil so we can keep you updated on what we are doing and hopefully share as much of our pilgrimage experience with you as possible. One of our goals for this trip is to get together with passionate youth from all around the world to witness to the beauty and truth of our Catholic faith, and that means sharing our experience with as many people as possible. That’s where you come in: tell your family & friends to follow our journey as well and take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of something BIG. We’re not just uploading memories of a fun, comfortable vacation in a foreign country; we are witnessing to the unity of the Catholic church and the awesomeness of living a true Christian life despite what secular culture thinks or says about us.

I remember the first time I attended a Catholic young adult conference called Steubenville San Diego in 2010; I was struck by how many Catholic teens were cheering and singing and jumping up and down, excited to discover that they weren’t alone, that there were thousands of teens just like them who are passionate about their faith. This message of hope– that we are not alone– is at the center of the Church’s mission of the New Evangelization. Right now there is a great need in the United States and in Christian countries throughout the world to re-propose the Gospel and invite people to renew their relationship with Christ and the Church. We will be learning and experiencing first hand what that entails by attending catechesis sessions and gatherings at World Youth Day in Rio. Millions of Catholics from all around the world will be there to empower one another to “Go and make disciples of all nations” {Mt 28:19}, which is the theme for this year’s WYD. Join us as we embark on this mission by taking advantage of the tremendous resources we have– including Youtube, social networking sites, and EWTN’s free app– which allow us to connect and share experiences from virtually any place in the world.


I am a nerdfighter. This doesn’t mean I’m some punk who fights nerds or picks on dorky kids on the playground. Rather, as a nerdfighter, I am neither the bully nor the bullied. I am a leader. I embrace my nerdiness and take on the world with a startling enthusiasm for my academic success. I am part of a greater purpose, one that serves to rid the world of “Decepticons” (people who do not realize that everyone is made of awesome and deserves to be treated as such) and fight to decrease “Worldsuck.”

A nerdfighter is someone who, instead of being made of blood and tissue and organs, is made entirely of awesome. Nerdfighters apologize for splitting infinitives and frown upon sentences with dangling participles. We counter the vacuous attacks of giant squids of anger (rude, spineless people who hide behind their computer screens while promoting Worldsuck and frequently using poor grammar in their arguments) with intelligent comebacks and Shakespearean insults. Everyone has the capacity to be a nerdfighter, all anyone really needs to do to be one is be passionate about something. Anything, really. Which leads to my next comment: many people actually ARE nerdfighters, they just don’t know it yet. ;)

Nerdfighteria is an online community of enthusiastic nerds created by two brothers, Hank and John Green, through their popular YouTube channel called the vlogbrothers. Their channel has become a center of altruistic ambition and initiative; it is a place where nerdfighters seek inspiration when we just can’t light that spark. Nerdfighteria is not of my own creation, nor can I say that I am solely responsible for the successes of nerdfighter charity events and organizations such as “The Foundation to Decrease Worldsuck,” “This Star Won’t Go Out” and “Project for Awesome”, but seeing what other nerdfighters have accomplished and knowing how much good we can do by working together, I can’t help but want to give back.

When describing what these two famous Youtubers have done in a recent documentary called “A Film to Decrease Worldsuck” (embedded above), one Nerdfighter explains that the fact that Hank and John are both “such genuine, awesome people is what makes them such good role models, because they’re not afraid to share their thoughts and they’re not afraid to share their beliefs, but they do it in a way that’s RESPECTFUL.” That, in my opinion, is the epitome of awesome.

It is also coincidentally what the Gospel reading today is all about. Jesus tells his disciples as he is sending them off on a mission to share the Good News with others, “Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household’… eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and [*THEN*] say to them, “The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’” {Luke 10:1-9} In today’s terms, this means that instead of trying to shove our beliefs down other people’s throats, we should seek to present the truth in a way that is respectful and intriguing to them. In his homily today, the pastor at my parish pointed out that what Jesus is saying is that we must first come as a friend to someone we are trying to share the Gospel with, and then– only after we have come to see and understand the world from their perspective– we can finally share what God wants us to communicate to them.

Events like World Youth Day are the perfect opportunity to give the people in this world who have been essentially “de-Christianized”– those who have lost faith in the Church and have been swallowed up by secular culture’s lies about the meaning of life, sexuality, and true happiness– a reason to believe. The Catholic Church can show in a way that no other religion can in these types of events as well as through social media & technology, the universality and truthfulness of a world redeemed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. French the llama, I’m proud to be Catholic!! (<–That’s a Nerdfighter expression by the way, don’t ask what it means… I don’t think there’s really an explanation for it, it’s just supposed to be used as an interjection. :P)

Until next time,

Don’t Forget to Be Awesome (DFTBA)!