Finales And Aftermaths or Steubenville 2015, Pt. 3

I ran around Sunday.  No two ways about it.  It was the last day, and I was up there in the clouds.  June 28, 2015.  Ah, yes.

Upon waking, I got ready for the day, prepping my equipment and donning my formal clothes.  Red long sleeve? Check.  Grey pants? Check.  Bag with every item needed for any possible contingency?  I wish.  I slung my bag over my shoulder, and ghosted out the door.  A light rain had picked up, and I pulled on my cap, but – being me – I just kept on calmly walking, letting runners pass me.  I had my wristband marked one more time, retrieved my breakfast, and headed over to the packed fieldhouse.  I entered out of the stormy skies, carrying my bag of food, then sat down and began to eat cereal, listening to the conversations and general noise around me, while being content to sit out of them.

Eventually, however, humans took notice.  They sometimes do that.  Not that my group is normal.  Annie said good morning, I said good morning back.  Michael tossed a rubber ball at me, I tossed it back to him.  Eventually, my introverted self calmed down enough to be able to talk to people.  The music playing overhead helped.  Sweet Caroline, Believe – Mumford & Sons, House of Gold – Twenty One Pilots, and Riptide(!) – Vance Joy.  They even had the Cupid Shuffle going, and I joined that group for about two minutes of it.  I was unsure at first, so I asked my group whether anyone wanted to join me.  Not a single one did, but they encouraged me to go.  Alright then.

However, before the energy had fully left me, they played Happy.  You can swing dance to that song, I was in a swing dancing mood, and Annie was a lady who knew how to dance swing.  I pulled her up, and we did just that.  Of the moves that I attempted, there was the underarm spin, the “bow-tie”, “cross-body twirl(?)”, the “sweetheart”, and some other ridiculous things that I came up with.  Fortunately, single-step swing gave me some added thinking room that normally would have been devoted to keeping time in triple-step.  Oh, and it was East Coast Swing, by the way.

I enjoyed it, I think she enjoyed it, and I’m pretty sure people gave us funny looks.  Pity no one else joined us.  Blah.  Maybe there’ll be another opportunity with people with that particular set of skills.  After dancing, I thanked her, and we sat down.  I began writing in my notebook for a – then – future post.  The uh, fear and future wives one.  Soon, music happened.  Magically, or something.  We stood, Annie on my right, Pablo on my left.  We sang to the high heavens, with thundering voices magnified 2000 times.  Then Ennie took the stage, and led us in prayer for a few minutes, then introduced those members of Franciscan Lead.
They were young men and women who had come to learn and serve before the weekend that we found ourselves in.  We cheered, they stood there, looking reasonably shy (I know I would have been), and Ennie pulled forward one of them, to give his testimony.  I don’t remember his name, but I have an image in my head.  The boy was courageous enough to say what was on his mind with conviction, and I applaud him for that.  Talking to over 2000 people does sound rather intimidating, after all.

They stepped down from the stage, one after the other, and when they had departed, Ennie took the microphone once more, and began his talk.  “Limitless Life”, it was.  What did we plan to do… next…
Sobering, truly.  We knew what was out there.  We’d pretty much all heard the news, about the changing world outside our immediate haven.  All of us knew that once we got back to the world, we wouldn’t be totally surrounded by Jesus-lovers, by those with a passion for the ultimate goal that is Heaven.  There would be no crowds in adoration, no incredibly deafening cheers or speakers who motivated us to move forward.  And… we wouldn’t be surrounded by the friends we’d had here… no longer would we be with them for all of the just-under-72 hours we’d had.
Silence.
Then he told us, no, God would still be there with us.  Always.  Maybe not in the widespread adoration or Masses attended by 2000, but He’d be there in our adoration chapels back home, in the Mass of our hometown parish.  He’d still be there, with us.
So he challenged us to live and revisit our experience.  To not forget what we’d seen and heard, and live it out.  And to help us along, we asked the Holy Spirit to give us His gifts.

Father would name a gift, then we’d raise our hand if we desired that gift, and for the person on our… right, we’d extend our hands over them in prayer, then quietly ask for that gift to be given to them.  It was a good formula, but as it turned out… my entire group wanted all the gifts.  And why not?  We needed them.  So, instead of re-extending our hands after each and every gift, we just linked arms.  Teresa with Annie with me with Pablo with Johnny and so forth.  Down the line, we prayed for each other.  Solemn prayer.  Intimate prayer.  Fervent prayer.

There’s something to be said about unity.  Those moments of prayer were intense, and the only way it worked was – I think – our willingness to join together as the Body of Christ, the Church, and pray for all the rest of us.
Throughout the prayers, one thing kept flashing through my head.  This one part in Doctor Who.  Yeah, Doctor Who, during moments of prayer, sounds kind of wrong, doesn’t it?  The part in question was this scene where the Face of Boe is speaking in the Doctor’s mind.  YANA.  You Are Not Alone.
Four words.  Four words which kept repeating themselves as I gripped the shoulders of Pablo and Annie.  It was glorious.  And it was true.  Their prayers gave strength, and I hope mine did the same for them.

With the last gift came the end, and the lights came on.  It was time for the closing Mass.  We all prepared ourselves, then stood and sang together.  It was brilliant.  1st reading, 2nd reading, Gospel, then Homily.  The Bishop was super excited to be leading us, and you could tell by the way he spoke.  Intentions, preparation of the altar, Consecration, all of it flew by in a blur, but oh, how magnificent it was.
Have you ever drawn a deep breath before receiving the Eucharist?  I know I have, because it’s just so mind-blowing to be receiving HIM.  Tell me that doesn’t make you fearful in some way.  He’s here for YOU.

Final blessing came, but before it… the Vocations Call.
The bishop thanked several people, and then he called up those actively discerning becoming a nun.  Several of my friends stood up, and I had to smile as I saw the numbers up front, before the bishop.
There were so many, so many brilliant sisters in Christ who stood ready to answer the call.
I knew it was coming, and I wondered whether I should have joined the numbers… but they called up those discerning priesthood.  I considered standing up and going to the front, but a part of me held me back.  It didn’t seem right.  I was open to the call, but something about it didn’t ring true for me.
I’m still conflicted about that moment, but I will say, it was a joy to see my brothers go forth.  I saw some from my group go up, namely Johnny and Jared, and others who I knew by sight.  They were undertaking a great challenge, and I knew it.
We all stood for the blessing from the bishop, and sang songs with all we had left, one last time.
Then we were out of there, on our way to the statue.

Grabbing our stuff from our rooms was easy, as was loading them on our respective buses.  It was saying goodbye that was the hard part.  I’m an upcoming senior, so chances are, that Steubenville trip was my first and last, unless I get pretty lucky.  Thus, around I went, running across the now-familiar grounds, taking pictures, smiling and waving at random people who I wish that I’d gotten to know on some level.  Even a brief “Hi, my name is Migi, what’s yours?” would have sufficed.  Oh well.  It’s far too late.
The point, is that I ran around, taking a last look, looking for the rest of Saint Gertrude, and saying goodbye to the Dayton group, who were sitting outside the bookstore in a nice big circle-ish formation.
I spotted Johnny and Peter at the desk, so I joined them in their run back to the bus, and I still waved at passersby.  I’ll tell you, it was quite gratifying to see people give me a brief nod or smile of their own.

Outside the bus, I stood, breathing it all in, until it really was time to say goodbye.
At which point, I boarded the bus, and we were out of there.

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Once we were on the road, we had a bit of time to mess around before reflections on the weekend.  Annie redeemed herself by pointing out the eternal flame from the start of the trip (not that I ever saw it anyway, I think I just pretended to).  Soon however, the talking died down, and we began to think over what we’d experienced during the weekend, with Mr. Bursa reminding us of the topics that had taken place.
I jotted down notes, which I reference even now.  There was so much, and we prayed over the experience (sounds weird, right?), so that we wouldn’t forget, and so we would have a better understanding of what had been said.  Our minds were still digesting and processing the info that we’d been given.
Shortly after that exercise, we were standing around on the bus, and I was content to talk, sleep, or whatever, so I did just that.  I talked, I messed around, and just savored the time I had left.

We stopped at Saint Thomas Aquinas Church in Zanesville, and said goodbye to our Zanesville brothers and sisters, as well as their Dominican chaperon.  People got hit by a soft tree, and we explored the church.

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Upon boarding the buses again, the conversations continued, and Night At The Museum 3 was going on the screens.  Everyone was still living off the energy brought on by the weekend at FUS.
Soon, we arrived, our driver, Rico, pulling off this really tight turn, which was worthy of our applause in my opinion.  The man did fantastically.

To end our Steubenville trip, we all had a giant group photo in front of the Saint Gertrude statue, which was quite magnificent, then our bags were made visible as we said our final, final, FINAL goodbyes.  I think it was an ideal ending.  It was a bit wistful, what with it being one of the last major youth group events of the summer, but it promised a reunion to come.  A great one.

And, to echo what we sang again and again, in tribute to that weekend and to give strength in the days to come, I say, “Veni Sancte Spiritus”.  God bless, everyone.

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– M

Question Games or The Nino Interview Part 2

A continuation in between Steubenville posts.  This was kind of an in-between activity, and well… I gleaned some more interesting info about my brother.  I should really have a family interview day… hmm…

Key:
Quotations = Nino
No quotations = Me

“This is Nino and Migi, we are in an interview.”
What?
“You can ask any question.”

Who is your favorite fictional character?

“Why would you ask that?”
Because.
“I don’t know why you’re saying because.”
Just answer the question.
“I don’t know what fictional means, dude.”
Imaginary.  Made up.  Not real.
“Okay… I’m thinkin’…. hmm…. like… people I imagine.”
Okay… who?
“Like… all kinds of people I think up.  Like minifigures and LEGO creations.  I once even created a big LEGO creation.  It had arms.”
Anyone specifically?
“Hmm… sometimes I get names from Batman and there’s variations and my favorite fictional characters are imaginary.  Dude, can you please just ask another question!?”

Fine.  What’s your favorite part of the outdoors?

“Impressing people.”
That’s not part of the outdoors.
“What?  I can go outside and just impress people.”
But… I mean like things like the trees or the sky…
“How about this… hmm… bike practice.  My stage is balancing on two wheels.”
Okay, that works.  Activity works.
“And my goal is two blocks.  I’ve already rode one block.”
We need to work on grammar.

What have you done recently?

“Um uh, can I tell about stuff that I haven’t finished yet?”
Sure.
“My LEGO minifigure display.  I have already built it.  It has four minifigures.  It is big enough to house nine minifigures.”
Cool.

Who’s your best character?

“I would say my LEGO movie police robot. Next question!”

Favorite candy?

“Okay man, hmm… candy cane!  And… hmm… chocolate blueberries?  And, and um…. um um um… ummmmmmmm…. I’m thinkin’….. I’m thinkin’…. I’m tryin’ very hard to think and you don’t need to type all of this.  So you can stop so you don’t make this thing too long… I guess… nothin’ else.”

Do you have a new favorite song this time?

“Angry Birds Transformers songs on Spotify.”
I mean like, your favorite song to sing.
“The LEGO movie!”
*he starts singing Everything is Awesome*

What’s your least favorite food?

“Vegetables!”
(Not a single hesitation was had by this kid)

What’s your favorite thing about Mom and Dad?

“I like to hug Mom.”
“I like to ask him (Dad) questions.”
What kind of questions?
“Like… sterilized stuff?”
What does sterilized mean to you?
“It’s stuff that goes through your kidneys, I got that from Dad.”
Okay… wait, Dad said that?
“Yeah!  I think it meant it goes through our kidneys.  What are kidneys anyway?”

What else do you like doing with Mom and Dad?

“Um… going on dates with them?”
(By date, he usually gets ice cream or heads to the park)

What’s your favorite time of day?

“My favorite time of the day is when I can do anything, so I build LEGO creations, or read, or just play with stuff.  And you know what Kuya Mig, I found out that you can make almost anything a toy.”

Who do you enjoy playing with?

“LEGO.”
No, who.
“I dunno.  Anyone.”
“Yup, that’s what I said.  Anyone.”

What’s your favorite park?

“Blue Ash!”
Blue Ash isn’t one huge park.
“Dude it’s awesome, I love that park.  Blue Ash & VOA!  And the Elementary school park.”

Do you have any dreams?

“No.  They’re too blurry!  I mean, that I can’t remember what happens.”
So you do dream.
“Yeah!”
That’s what I was asking!

What’s your favorite dream?

“How about… favorite nightmare?”
Okay….?
“I’ll tell you what my favorite nightmare is!  NONE OF THEM!”

Do you like horses?

“I hate horses, because you could get pooped on!”
*starts singing a very modified The Judge by Twenty One Pilots*

What do you love most about Jesus?

“You know what I would like?  To travel back in time and learn the real history of Jesus… that would be AWE-SUM.”
But what do you love most about him?
“Dude, I cannot tell you that, I do not know.”

What’s your best magic trick?

“The twenty card trick.  Don’t tell them how to do it.”
“Let’s end the interview after this trick, k dude?”
“*starts running off* Goodbye, dude!”

End transcript… no wait… nevermind.  Reconvening 5 days later…

What’s your favorite joke?

“Can you write the whole joke?”
Yes.
“Knock knock.”
Who’s there?
“Punch.”
Punch who?
“Not me!”

Any good books you’ve read recently?

“Um… Phineas and Ferb Across the Second Dimension.  Hmm… I’m thinkin’.  Tom Sawyer?”

What’s your favorite thing to act out?

“I guess… impressing people?”
What?  You like acting like you’re impressing people?
“Yeah, dude.  I like acting like I’m impressing people, even people coming down the sidewalk.  I don’t even know them.”

Any LEGO things you’re planning on building?

“Uh… I always think of stuff to build…. so I get ideas from my Lego inspirations book.  I haven’t read it in a long time.  I even make my own crazy creations… and I have good ideas.  They.  Are.  Awe.  Sum!”
So any specific things you’re planning to build?
“Uh……. noooooooo…. not right now.”
Okay.

What did you have the most fun with in Trail Life?

“The most fun thing to do in Trail Life was make my flubber.  Flubber my bubber.”

Do you like drawing?

“Not really.  I do it very rarely.”

What food are you craving?

“Bacon!  And chicken on a stick.  I LOOOOOOVE Back-on!”

What’s the funniest thing you’ve heard?

“Uh… I don’t know, dude.”
No?
“Of course.”
Okay then.

What movie did you watch last?

“El-Dorado! The Road to El-Dorado!”
Did you enjoy it?
“I don’t exactly think so…”

Would you rather ride a bike, drive a car, or fly on a hoverboard (actually, hover, but whatever.  Technicalities)? Oh, and why?

“Hoverboard!  I love – I want to ride on a hoverboard!”
Good choice.  Last question…

If you could be a superhero, what power would you want?

“Wow, you know what… ALL THE POWERS in the WORLD!  You know, like all the invincibility, all the intelligence, all the smartness, and that’s all I said.”
You’d be pretty over-powered (yes, I just realized that I’m a bit of a dream crusher).
“Dude, I’d be epic.”
(No arguing there)

Thank you for your cooperation.
“That’s it? That’s the end of the interview?”
Yep!

– End

Laughter In The Night or Steubenville 2015, Pt. 2

My first thought, upon waking Saturday morning, was something along the lines of: “Ugh…”

That first night, I had fallen asleep quite… interestingly.  It took some effort, because the seat on which I slept was short, and so my legs hung over the edge, which was semi-uncomfortable.
Add that to mornings, and yes, I was pretty much a zombie then and now (until I get coffee, if that happens).  I decided to shower, while having only an inkling of an idea of where the showers were located.  Ben and Kevin also had no idea, but we guessed – correctly, as it turns out – that the showers were in the Fieldhouse.  Thank goodness.  A light rain had started as we quickly moved across the grounds, so we double-timed it, trying to avoid slipping on the slick pavement.

By the time we got there, a good line of about eight people had formed.  It was bleh, but we toughed it out, and time actually passed rather quickly.  We showered, brushed our teeth, and basically got ready for a full day of rainy madness.
Depositing our goods back at Assisi Heights, we took up our daypacks, and made our way to the breakfast line, in the drizzly world of wonder.  It was a dark day, but my spirits were up in the heavens somewhere, thanks to confession.  It was glorious, but my heart was in confusion, and my brain followed suit.  I stumbled through breakfast, then found myself being directed to the Fieldhouse.  I smiled at people as I passed, and they might smile back uncertainly.

My road was lonely, passing only those stragglers on their way to grab a bite to eat, but it was all good.  They might have taken notice at times, but I was too far gone to care.  Upon reaching the Fieldhouse, I stepped in out of the rain, thanking the two door guardians there.  My brown paper bag containing an egg croissant, milk, and orange juice… and a banana – good source of potassium – was mildly damp, but I could live with it.  A brief moment of confusion later, and I was sitting with the Saint Gertrude group… of females.  All the other guys had vanished.  Vanished without a trace, as it were.  Again, I was alone.  What a dreadful situation.

I ate my breakfast quietly, munching on my croissant, and getting lost in my thoughts.  It was a quiet atmosphere, the girls’ conversations notwithstanding.  My eyes were still bleary and had trouble focusing, due to rain and weariness.  Sooner than I expected, I was booted from the Fieldhouse (not forcibly, you understand) so that the ladies could start their morning session.  Meanwhile, I headed off to the glory tent (*see below), to join the rest of my brothers.

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The inside of the glory tent was jam-packed with 800 guys.  They fit 800 guys into this long and narrow tent.  It took a while, but everybody made their way in.  We sang Believer – Smash Mouth, in tribute to our lovely sisters (they said it, we thought it) down in the Fieldhouse, then followed that up with American Pie, and then American Pie Star Wars version.

We talked about true manhood, and its 4 marks.  As I remember… firstly, man must initiate love.  Not exactly a commonly done task, but there it is.  Second, he must commit to the beloved.  Boom.  That, right there, is what needs to happen in this world.  Actual commitment.  And this goes both ways.  The third is the creation of life.  Not always literally, you understand.  Some are called to things other than marriage.  Finally, that life that they created is to be sustained.  It’s pretty mind-blowing stuff, and not the easiest thing to stick to or fully understand.  There are trials, and there are falls that drop us down a notch.  However… the point is to get up.  And yes, I took notes.  I most definitely wouldn’t remember all this unless I had like… a mind palace or something.
Jason Evert, speaking of our sisters in the fieldhouse, challenged us to: instead of seeing an occasion for sin in them, to see a reminder of Heaven’s beauty.  Truly, it’s a war within.
Fantastic speaker, man.  I should have shaken his hand or something.  Regrets, regrets everywhere.

Anyway, post-awesome talk, with the rain pouring down all around, us men plodded back to the fieldhouse.  Some through the muddy grass; others on the longer road; and still others down the slippery steps to the far left.
We came stomping in and found places to sit with our separate groups.  The men merged into the ranks of ladies relatively smoothly, and the atmosphere got all hyper just before Mass.  We went over the singing responses, which Ben Walther led, and then Mass started.  It was an interesting Mass.  Complex in that there were 2100 of us, but everybody got through the communion line somehow.  This was helped by the multitude (I exaggerate) of priests present, and eventually, we finished.  It was quite good.  Loved the homily.
We then stayed kneeling for brief adoration and benediction, our knees adjusting to the hard floor with alacrity.  And yes, our knees were cheerful, because we were cheerful.  Most of us, anyway.  Good stuff.

After Mass and adoration, was lunch time/free time.  Us of the blue wristbands divided into small groups, and got thoroughly soaked by the rain before meeting near the bookstore, on the upper side of the building.  We discussed some things, briefly, before getting lunch.  Some ballroom dancing ensued in line for lunch, and Batman saved some kid by tying their shoelace (it was muddy).  Fortunately, by this point, the rain had let up enough that we were able to sit at the statue, which was our somewhat designated group area.  I tried to convince Annie and Michael to get other people together so we could all go to that awesome photo booth that they kept reminding us about, but sadly, it never happened.  I did plead several times, and if you know me, I NEVER plead.  Except for food.  And acting.  Okay, I plead with people sometimes.  Jonny and I decided to go the bookstore, and I purchased gifts for my sibs.  I regret not buying a Limitless t-shirt.

Around 2:00pm, I returned to the fieldhouse, for Jackie Francois’ Entertainment.  Having never been to Steubenville before, I was curious as to what was about to happen.  It was exciting.  They had ALL the flashing lights out in force, and people were dancing.  The place was pretty packed.  I seated myself on the bleachers next to Michael and a few others who turned out to mostly be strangers, though of Saint Gertrude.

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The game, as it turned out, was about popular music.  Mrs. Francois called up 5 girls, and 5 guys, for an epic battle of the genders and music knowledge.  She’d sing la la la to the tune of whatever song she was thinking of, and the groups would have to guess and then tag her husband before giving the name and artist.  Oh, and he was carrying their baby, which meant a warning was issued beforehand.  If the baby was hurt, things were goin’ down in no uncertain terms.  Needless to say, the girls kept winning like crazy.  So many songs that they were more likely to know, and they had a fast little sprinter.  Us guys were down by about 4, when one of the group had the brilliant idea of having the final song be an all or nothing.  The girls got there first, inevitably.  But they didn’t know the song!  So us guys took that win, and thus beat the girls through the power of all or nothing.  It was brilliant, to say the least.  Every time a group won, those of the same gender would stand and sing the song.  It was funny to be among those guys who were singing.
Following that game, we had crazy dances on stage and crazy dances everywhere.  We were taught old moves, ridiculous moves, and other things of the like.  We did that for a good 15 minutes or so, and Mrs. Francois had everybody doing the dance moves.  I should have run for the stage.  Ah, well.
Finally, we wrapped it up, and people started to trickle out of the Finnegan Fieldhouse.

I was among the multitude that stayed.  What can I say?  I desired to hear Jason Evert give another fantastic talk.  I was not disappointed.  His talk was on friendships.  It was hilarious and drawn from his personal experiences, some that I’d heard before, but still with new areas that had yet to be explored by my mind.  That talk made me analyze my current friendships.  It made me question them.  The goal of friendships, of the good ones, has a lot of emphasis on mutual perfection/building one another up.  They are key in keeping one another standing.  Friends don’t tear each other down/let each other stay fallen.  He told of 40 Christian men put to death on a frozen lake.  They were stripped of their clothing and made to stand on the ice, and there they stayed, huddled together, praying and supporting one another to the end.  They did not bow, and they stayed united.  As true friends.
Immediately following that was small group time.  I joined my team, along with Mike (not Michael), and we headed for the gallery.  Upon seating ourselves, we launched into deep sharing mode, discussing what talks we’d been to, and what we thought of them.  It was a quiet group sharing, but I think we got to know one another better by our rather personal experiences.  I am thankful for that time.  Dinner next.
FOOD was tasty.  I believe it was burgers, and I enjoyed it highly.  I talked with people, meandered about near the bookstore, and generally had a good time.  I waved at random people, like ya do, and met this girl called Anna, who will probably never remember me past being that one kid who waved and smiled like some lunatic.  Yes, that’s how I met her.

Then, the night.  The most powerful part of it all.  The experienced campaigners had been raving about Saturday, and that was something I was looking forward to most.  I was pumped up, and they pumped us up further with ALL the hyping music.  We sang for a good while, then quieted down for a meditation on the cross, led by Jackie Francois.  She started us off quite calmly, then her voice dropped as she described the crucifixion.  There was silence after every word.  It was quiet, and there was genuine pain in her voice as she described the torture that Jesus went through.  Flesh torn until the muscle was exposed.  A wooden, splinter-filled cross laid across his exposed and bloody muscles.  Nails driven through, each blow of the hammer rocking his body and driving them deeper.  Each breath that was excruciating as He raised himself on the nails so as to speak.  Imagine… the horror… and yet… imagine that Limitless Love that drove Him onward, despite everything.
Some of it was revisited knowledge… some of it was of a new depth.  Mrs. Francois’ passion and sorrow was clearly shown.  You could see it in her face, and you could see it in many of the faces in the audience…

Adoration.  Right after.  As Jackie Francois left the stage, we prepared for a few minutes, then knelt as Jesus appeared in the monstrance.  The priests took him around, and many things happened.  Many things indeed.  I was in it, and I was out of it.  Both at once, if you can imagine.  I heard crying, I heard laughter, and I was experiencing joy.  Yeah, I don’t know what started it.  Usually, I’m the kind of guy who just kneels quietly when Adoration happens.  Especially when there’s a procession.  That night, I didn’t.  I stood, uncertainly at first, but then I got used to it.
There was something funny.  Something funny.  It started with a chuckle.  Started with a wondering soul.  Started with a whisper in my head.  Then I was laughing in short bursts, and I was among those many laughing.  It required some self-analysis, which I’m good at overdoing, but I got somewhere that night.
I was laughing because… I was having problems.

No seriously, that’s what I was laughing about.  Problems.  Imagine… an ant before a giant boot.  That should give you a pretty good idea of what I was feeling.  Ant = problems.  Boot = Jesus.  Boom.  My problems were insignificant.  Insignificant, I say.  I felt like I could climb a mountain, and with God’s help, I’m telling you, I could most definitely have done it that night.  Chuckle after chuckle, moment of hilarity followed moment of hilarity.  EVERYTHING WAS HILARIOUS.  So I laughed, but I wasn’t alone.  In that room, hundreds must have been laughing.  In my elation, I was still able to reach out to those who were crying, and I did my best to comfort them.  Each with a unique experience.  Some others were slain in the spirit.  Some fell asleep in the peace of Christ.

The priest leading realized this, and he thanked God for the gift of joy, which was followed by some laughter all around.  Every time I could see Jesus, agh, I can’t describe it well.  I just… prayed with my body for… really the first time.  It was an enlightening experience, and one I have no regrets about, whatsoever.
In the aftermath, we divided into small groups and discussed our experiences in the night breeze.  I was on a “Jesus High”, so I was kind of out of it.  Everything was funny in some way, and some of my friends shared their experiences of peace, sorrow, or something else.  The cold kept us awake as we huddled together, as a family.  Yeah, unity.

We divided after a final prayer led by Teresa, and then I walked around, enjoying the fresh air.  Jonny joined me at the photo booth, and we got a picture with Chris and Donovan.  We looked like maniacs, but it was good.
We walked around the bookstore, the statue, the everywhere, just basking in the glorious feeling of life.  I saw Anna, Emily, a few of the Dayton homeschoolers, and it was all good.  Finally, exhausted, and with the hour nearing midnight, we headed back to the dorm, and I promptly crashed.

– M

The Limitless Journey or Steubenville 2015 Pt. 1

Oh, yes, it says Steubenville, just to clear things up.  How did Mr. Bursa put it?  Steubenville is not Stupidville for those who eat fig newtons under the pine tree.  We were playing Telephone, but we’ll discuss that later.

What has happened?  Steubenville… then soon after, a launch into VBS.  Yes, that was exciting, and it has kept me occupied these past days, with it finally wrapping up yesterday (relative, you understand).  Maybe my summer is busier than I expected… anyway!

The sun was still rising Friday, as it has every day thus far, when we started out.  The lines of people signing in were immense, but somehow, we all got through before 9:00 am.  There were two buses, one with blue striped seats, and one with red striped seats.  I got red, by some fantastic bit of happenstance.
I just happened to be in the right place, such that Michael invited me onto the bus with him and the rest of his people, some of whom I knew.  So there I was surrounded by Grady and Kevin directly to the right of me, Emily one seat diagonally across the aisle in front, Elisa and Annie (and a whole lot of others) directly behind, and Michael and Andrew at about 5 o’clock.  I want to say Pablo was in front, but that might have been later during the game… but I get ahead of myself!

Though most everyone was loaded on the buses by 9, we actually didn’t get going until… maybe 9:30ish.  It worked, because we started leaving as the torrential downpour did.  I can’t remember all the random things we talked about, but my introvert self took… maybe an hour to get comfortable with everyone immediately around me.
We played games, and discussed random things, for the first half of the journey.  We played Telephone, which nobody won, and had icebreakers, so new people could meet the experienced.  All through the first half, the rains continued outside, falling in dreary patterns that coated the windows and made visibility a bit difficult.  Naturally, in the face of it all, I fell asleep.  After crashing for a good bit of time, I awoke to our arrival in Zanesville.  It was a nice little place… or was, until 98 or so people invaded the local eateries.  By this point in time, it was 12:15 or so, and our two buses had stormed the Family Video parking lot.

The line of humans in red shirts running across the street must have been quite a sight.  Out of three options which included Burger King, Taco Bell, and McDonalds, my small group (12), chose the first, as it was directly across the street, and was… “most appealing to our appetites” for that meal.
Inside, we waited for an hour before purchasing our sustenance (am I using that right?).  We played Never Have I Ever, picked up some people in the Zanesville area, and got out of there ASAP.
With only two hours left until we reached our destination, we prayed the rosary on the highway, then stood around in the aisle, chattering away about tv shows, music, and theology.  Yes, there was a theological discussion going on near the back, and the topics were of a wide variety.  And not always the easiest to argue.

15 minutes away, we passed what experienced participants deemed “Hell”/the huge industrial plant spewing smoke to the heavens.  Annie claimed that there was an eternal flame, but alas, she could not identify it before we had passed through the area completely.  Still, we searched on, but it was too far gone.  Michael had candy.  I had jelly babies.  Several people disliked the jelly babies, even though I tossed in a 4th Doctor quote!  Oh, well.  Can’t please everyone.

Arriving in the Steubenville parking lot leading to Assisi Heights, wristbands and identification items were bequeathed to us by our mighty youth ministers.  After making it to Assisi Heights, us guys were booted off the bus so that we could retrieve our bags and troop over to the dorms in which we would be… surviving the weekend.  It was like camping, but not really.  At any rate, I got 1504, and joined an awesome trio comprised of Chance, Ben, and Kevin.  All three of them are what I would classify as “chill” kids.  And yes, that means that they’re very cool people.

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Regrouping at the statue, us guys sat about, twiddling our thumbs and waiting for the girls for a few minutes, before deciding to just go for dinner, as they were still away.  So us guys trooped on over to the line, made our way through, had our wristbands marked, and received our blessed dinner.  Back at the statue, we partook of what we had been given, and sat, happily munching away at our… food (I forgot what we got the first night).

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After eating, I headed over to the bookstore with Jonny (I think), and we took a good look all around, with some results.  Upon returning to the statue, we found that it had been overtaken by all the girls from our group.  Surprise, surprise.  They sat there eating, we stood there, staring.  It was weird, so we left.

We made it to the fieldhouse, flashed our blue wristbands of awesome, and entered the strange, beginning world of the conference.  Everybody was pumped up, multicolored lights were flashing, there was a conga line going, people were hitting beachballs everywhere, it was glorious.  St. Gertrude positioned itself on the right side, as far up as we could, then we went about for a good hour or so, joining in with the dancing and music.  They played some excellent songs.

Soon, Ben Walther and his band started leading us in music, and what music it was.  Conference music is just… epic.  You might go and get CDs and stuff afterward, but man, live conference music just can’t be beat by them.
Then we started to wrap that up, and the conference team was introduced, with about… um… 5 speakers, if I remember correctly.  Ennie led a blessing of the weekend, and then a talk was given on the Shepherd and the Thief by Pete Burds.  A passionate, passionate speaker.  You can just tell when people are into what they say.  The guy had that passion.  I mean, darn.  He warned as about the lies that the devil would whisper to us, and prepared us as best he could.  Some of the lies were things that I could relate to.  Actually, many of them.  However, Mr. Burds put me on guard, and for that, I thank him.  My soul was wary.
Then, taking the stage after Pete Burds, came Fr. Rick Martignetti.  Father led us in a meditation, examining our consciences, with a sincerely loving demeanor.  That helped me greatly that night, and it was one of the pushes that led me to confession.

After his talk, we wrapped up with music, and made our way out, slowly.  My friend Annie, bless her, noticed that I had grown quiet after the talk.  Something about being less… outgoing after it?  I don’t remember.  That night, I was struggling with some things that I had to lay down, going with the theme of humbly going before the cross.  So yes, I had grown a bit more, uh… introspective.  SGYM reconvened at the Saint Francis statue, and then those who wanted to go to confession were allowed to, instead of joining the small groups of men and women, as it had started to rain.

I joined the small group and slipped into the dimly lit, but beautiful, Christ the King chapel.  There were… possibly 80+ people going to confession?  I joined the back of the group, sliding in right next to a stranger.  My mind was in turmoil, and I was jittery.  I could barely sit still, so I took my journal out of my bag, and began to write…
Some minutes later, I registered someone sitting down next to me in the ever moving line.  Teresa (I believe that that’s the spelling), whom I recognized from my group.  Suppressing a smile, I continued onward, slowly but surely.
It was good to have some unity, in the darkest hour.  And it was dark in the chapel.  It really fit with the somber mood.

For an hour I sat, moving with the line, and writing and praying the rest of the time.  When it was my turn to go, I was unsure whether my legs would support my weight.  My nerves were shot.  I stood, and went to the directed priest.  I made my confession, stumbling over my words, probably botching what I meant, but in the face of it all, the priest (oh, I should have asked for his name) was kind and patient.  A true Father.  There was joy in his voice as we talked through my sins, for I could tell that he loved the chance to draw me back to God.  So powerful.
Now, I’ve lost hundreds of battles in my life, and probably still will, but there was one ongoing one in particular that kept cropping up.  Naturally, after some hesitation, I brought it up to the priest.  He told me that I had won.  The devil, however, would not stand for it, and he told me that the devil would try to convince me that I was still fighting a losing battle.  In fear of losing my future wife by my failure… the whispers would keep onward… encouraging that fear.  Father impressed upon me that the devil was being ridiculous.  The priest even laughed!  So joyful was he.
God bless that man!  If ever we are reunited, I intend to thank him most graciously.  I left that confessional, my heart lighter, and my eyes (probably) shining.  Joy is infectious.  It happens.  Sue me.

A moment after stepping through the door of the chapel, I felt the night breeze on my face, and a peace in my spirit.  With that invigorating feeling still in me, I stepped off quickly, heading back to the dorm.

– M