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.
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.
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.
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.