From left, Father Jonathan Wallis, diocesan director of Catechesis; Curtis Martin, president and Founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students; and Bill Quinn, president of the Fort Worth Chapter of Legatus. Prior to the recent Legatus meeting featuring Martin as speaker, the group gathered for Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral, celebrated by Fr. Wallis. (Photo by Jerry Circelli)
Genuine enthusiasm and passion are among the greatest virtues of powerful speakers who possess the gift of captivating audiences from start to finish. A classic case in point is Curtis Martin, president and founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). He delivered a compelling talk on Nov. 8 to members of the Fort Worth chapter of Legatus.
As head of one of the fastest-growing evangelization programs of the Catholic Church, Martin has maintained a vigor that has carried the organization from concept to reality during the 14 years it has grown to serve tens of thousands of students on 74 campuses in 30 U.S. states.
On this day at the Fort Worth Club, addressing the CEOs and presidents of the Legatus group, Martin seemed to possess newfound energy, having just returned from the three-week Synod of Bishops for the New Evangelization, held at the Vatican.
Martin was one of only a few laymen to attend the synod, which included daily meetings for nearly a month with 250 clergy, including Pope Benedict XVI, as well as cardinals, archbishops, and bishops from around the world.
“It was a tremendous and amazing experience,” Martin said. “If I left with one impression about the new evangelization, I would use one phrase: ‘All the Church for all the world.’
“And we need to awaken every Catholic, because the rest of the world is dying for us to awaken.”
Martin related a few discussions he had with Catholic bishops working in non-Christian cultures of second- and third-world nations.
Martin said, “One bishop told me, ‘My problem is not trying to get young people to join my church, but my problem is that if I baptize them, people burn my churches down. We live in persecution.’” Martin added that another bishop talked about atrocities, including kidnappings, that take place in his nation and how the Church is trying to advocate for basic human justice.
Still another talked about being ostracized by his family upon becoming a Catholic. But the man persevered, became a priest and then a bishop, living out his Christian life by example. His family saw the joy that faith in Christ can bring to a person’s life. In the last two years, the bishop has baptized his entire family, Martin said.
It was a perfect example of evangelization, he continued, emphasizing that sometimes Catholics make the process more complicated than it needs to be.
“We can do it naturally,” said Martin, “by experiencing our faith as good news. We don’t force people to be Catholic, but instead only invite them to check it out. We invite them to share the wonderful blessing of being Catholic.”
Curtis Martin, founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, returned recently from the Vatican, where he met with Pope Benedict XVI, as well as cardinals, archbishops, and bishops from around the world as part of a three-week Synod of Bishops for the New Evangelization. The experience redoubled Martin’s excitement for reaching out to college students on campuses across America to help them develop a stronger relationship with Jesus Christ. (Photo courtesy Fellowship of Catholic University Students)
That invitation has been central to the work of Martin and his FOCUS group, which includes about 350 dedicated missionaries. In the process of sharing their Catholic faith with students at college campuses across America, their goal is nothing short of raising dynamic new leaders. Martin carries a message forward that he heard from Pope Benedict during his first week as Pope in April 2005.
In a message directed to youth, Pope Benedict said, “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”
Martin repeated the message to the group of attentive Legatus members and their spouses.
“I’ve never met a young person who doesn’t want to hear that,” Martin said. “I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t want to hear that.
“This is the Catholic truth,” Martin continued. “This is the good news. To be Catholic is to plug into the living God and become who we were meant to be.”
It is critical to reach college students with this message, Martin said, especially considering that they are such a pivotal group in our culture. These individuals will soon be taking the next step to becoming leaders in our society.
“If you reach college students, you reach them right at the beginning of their adult lives. They can immediately choose to live for greatness and for Christ. And they can spend the rest of their lives having an impact.
“They can stand with you to address problems of contraception and abortion, poverty, divorce, drugs and alcohol, and all the things afflicting us in our culture.”
Martin’s message resonated with the group of Catholic business leaders, many of whom later expressed concerns to him about the direction our nation is headed and the threats to religious freedom.
It was a topic with which Martin is all too familiar and one that he addressed in a recent FOCUS annual report.
“Universities are the hinge of the culture. If we can reach our future leaders with the truth and life-changing power of the Gospel, they will develop the vision and calling to be people who will spend their lives building a civilization of love and of truth. In the 1960s there was a cultural revolution on college campuses. Fifty years later, the revolutionaries are running the campuses and the government. We stand at a pivot point in our history. Either the best days of our nation are ahead of us or behind us. We believe that the key to building a better future lies with the young leaders on campus.”
In all of Martin’s talks and writings about following Christ and practicing our faith, evangelization continues to be at the center.
“Catholicism is a relay race,” Martin said. “No matter how well we live our faith and practice our faith, if we don’t pass it on to the next generation, we lose. It’s really all about the baton pass to the next generation.”
Martin ended his talk with a quote from the Prayer of Jesus in the Gospel According to Saint John:
“Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.”
Martin emphasized and repeated the words, “know you,” explaining that they point to the fact that our faith is relational. Developing a relationship with God is necessary for us to truly develop our faith and evangelize others, he said.
“If we begin to live with joy in that relationship, then we will begin to live organically in such a way that people will ask us, ‘How do you live that way?’
“There is nothing that we wouldn’t trade for joy. God offers us not just joy, but everlasting joy. And it begins right now.”
To learn more about FOCUS, visit www.focus.org. Click here for more information on the FOCUS programs in Texas.
Genuine enthusiasm and passion are among the greatest virtues of powerful speakers who possess the gift of captivating audiences from start to finish. A classic case in point is Curtis Martin...