Perimeter Defense – Eagle Eye Summer Institute Pt. 5

Why did God forgive a man who killed millions? That was the question Father Nathan left us with, to mull over as the week continued: Was the justice carried out in history correct, or was God’s mercy right?
It left a heaviness on me as he put it into perspective; generations upon generations of my family and friends had all been wiped out, only to end with forgiveness for the man who had overseen it all.
Justice demanded that man’s death, did it not?

On that fun note, we transitioned into Mass mode, the white church on the block in the center of that town brought to life by the presence of the 45 and more.
I distinctly remember kneeling to pray briefly before Sister Francesca asked all interested individuals to join the choir sitting in the middle section.
My eyes shot open as I weighed the possibilities: Sit comfortably and sing from my position or join the choir and actually unveil some pitchy and distinctly amateur singing talent?

It was one of those moments where I didn’t exactly think straight and went with the spontaneous, gut reaction: I stood up and moved to join four other fellow men, then stood awkwardly, waiting. Alex, Luke, Drew, and Tommy were all prepared as Sister Francesca handed us songbooks.
There was little to no practice beforehand, and in that moment, I realized how little I knew of the Saint Paul Mass. In short, I was flying blind.

Lunch followed Mass, then sports in the form of Ultimate Frisbee. Four teams, two games: Girls vs. Girls and Guys vs. Guys with Rolled Sleeves.

Now, if you’ve met me, you’ll understand that I don’t do sports too often. After those two days of hiking that basically wiped me out, it was the most I could do to stay back and guard the wide expanse marking my team’s goal.
Every time we scored a point, I confess I knew myself to be a spectator more often than not. The thrill of the chase was when our opponents pushed us back, and even then I participated very little.  Yet… it was nice to enjoy the outdoors without walking a quick march.
A few drops of welcome rain came as we played and sported, and as the hours dragged on toward 3:15, I felt myself slowing down further and further.

Finally, Rachael came with the bell to call those who were interested to “To The Heights”, or a more in-depth discussion on what had taken place in Philosophy class earlier.

This led into Theology, where we saw how there are things that are beyond the boundaries of logical reasoning set by the world. Order, for example: There is something outside of scientific bounds that is the reason for a natural order to the way life is, i.e. Why are the stars and planets so perfectly aligned that we can survive on Earth? Happenstance?

Did the universe create itself from nothing?
If we are actually talking about nothing, then we from our human experience (going back to philosophy) know that nothing cannot suddenly spring from nothing. It’s not the done sort of thing, thus there has to be something that first moved/formed/created.

If you desire to actually learn from an expert, have a look at Saint Thomas Aquinas’ writings, like the Summa, which is quite the heavy read.

I could go on and on with this, but I must press forward as I relate all that remains.

Dinner, some chores, evening prayer and free time, then campfire. A fantastic performance was given by Ethan on his banjo, and yes, an encore was called for. And lastly, our traditional procession in honor of our Lady to close out the night.

End Tuesday.

TBC – M

By The Light Of Philosophy – Eagle Eye Teen Summer Institute Pt. 4

*And to boot, since I messed up the last post, here’s the next one in immediate Time Lord fashion!*

The morning was an odd affair. I didn’t rest well. Then again, it was the first night back.

They’d said that silent prayer was at 6:15. I failed to make it there on time. I ended up showing my odd face around 6:45. Good news (well, relatively speaking), silent prayer was optional, so don’t shoot me. I did better later on.
I slid into a pew on the far right, facing our Lady.
Lauds, silent breakfast, Lectio. Matthew 6:1-6.

My group took seats in the grassy garden beside one of the statues, challenging one another with stares initially, but warming to conversation quickly.
Oh the days that blend…
This had to be Tuesday. I was sure of it.

So, to jump into it, philosophy class happened:

  • Thinking begins with wonder, then… a question stems from that wonder.
  • That question then leads to understanding for myself, which in turn… makes me freer, because I understand myself better.
  • A conclusion has satisfied this longing inside, without which there may be emptiness regarding one’s own person… and, despite being a conclusion, it might not be the be all end all.

It opens up this desire for more; a sense that there is something beyond.

This is why a man who starts with wonder can be said to be freer than one who simply starts by examining the conclusion and working backwards.
The latter has already locked himself into the end goal, and his own journey is limited by this answer that he has taught himself to accept.
It’s why Father Nathan wanted to start us off with that wondering, that question.

And yes I know, I’m bound to get it muddled, but I would humbly ask that if there is a fault in my mental processes, that you would speak and challenge me that I might better learn.

The second point was accepting that I really WANT something; in other words, love/desire leads to freedom.
I’ve chosen it. I have not locked myself into this game of keeping all the doors open, all the options free. There has to be a choice there that I follow.
If every option is the way, then I have deadlocked my fate at an unbreachable crossroads.

So make that decision and know that I am one who truly wants to follow a path makes me freer than the man who stands in the hallway and desires to cross the threshold of every door simultaneously.
A sacrifice must be made somewhere, and yet that choice opens up many more doorways after.

I really hope I’m being clear, and fellow Eaglets, please correct me if I utterly failed at grasping these concepts. I might have been part of the percentage that didn’t follow, but I do remember the essential shorthand (sort of shorthand):

Wonder > Questions > Understanding > Identity/I Am

TBC – M

Under My Own Power – Eagle Eye Teen Summer Institute Pt. 3

Fixed because I was told by my good and gracious friend that no content was present XD  I’m human, I make mistakes.  Sue me.  With that! *time warp noises*

I could pretend that with the sleep I got that second night that I was fit and ready for the second day.

Not so. A cold morning prevailed, and I desired coffee. Alas, it was not to be.

The first occurrence was lauds, something that I was still getting into, but loved already.

All the prayers were glorious as we stood around the our square around an altar, and it was brilliantly chilly, yet fantastic.

After prayer, breakfast. So, with my aching legs, I took an easy lope over there.

Cereal and healthy fruit. My mind flashing back to my mother’s disapproving face, I actually took an apple and a banana to go. Oh, she should be proud of me.

I will not speak much of the hike (maybe), as it was rather the same experience as before, though with different locations to visit and more exhaustion, but I will point out a few things that I’d like to remember.

First, the actual places we went: The falls of Mohican, the Fire Tower of Mohican, and the roads… of Mohican.

All very gratifying in themselves, but there was a second point for me, personally.

Patience and encouragement. Brother Benedict, a fantastic man, whenever I was especially slow or struggling, he would always say that I was doing very well, or some other words to that effect. No matter how much I failed to keep pace, how many roots I tripped over, or the hills that nearly caused me to fall flat on my face as I went down them, he never put me down.

It was in his words and the rosary that I found the strength to keep going. I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that I couldn’t let him down by stopping or giving in, so I didn’t.

Again, I wouldn’t have made it without him and many of the others who were constantly waiting for me as I lagged behind. Granted, there was the occasional word of amusement or even mockery at my slowness and how I looked as if I’d dressed to go on a safari hike (refer to pictures), but for the most part, their patience with me was something for which I am especially thankful.

They could have made that day or even that work a terrible thing.

Father Nathan came to pick us up, calling for us to evac like the hike was a military operation, intentionally rocking the car as if bullets were whizzing past, then zooming up the rocky road to freedom. Such awesome.

We drove next to Mass at Saint Peter’s, finishing our brief stay at the lovely little parish, then we got ice cream.

In the burning sun, I took a moment to lean back and look on the group scene with something like cynicism.

I didn’t really fit, I thought. There was that direct contrast to what I had thought the night before under the lovely shining stars. Night and day. The restless day and the stillest night. My two opposing states of mind.

This train of thought was broken when I saw two girls practicing ballroom dancing steps, and I couldn’t help but grin. There at least was something I knew.

After loading up, we got back to the retreat center in time for a fantastic thanksgiving dinner. Apt, considering our trials during the hike. Good heavens, I was wishing for a TARDIS by the end, if only for the sake of my feet! But then, that’s where the Blueberry came in. Father Nathan’s great (and borrowed) car.

Campfire again, as with every night. I never can remember the order, but I believe one of the girls’ groups led the program that time around.

Lots more singing talents, and poetry! Shakespeare in the… campfire ring… yeah. Good stuff. Excellent work Anna.

Then -it might have been that night or the next- we finished up with another talk by Father Nathan and our first procession to the statue of our Lady of Consolation.

We sang the Salve Regina (Dominican version) and said a few final prayers in the basilica.

Then, naturally, we were sent to the depths of slumber.

TBC – M

The Way It Began – Eagle Eye Teen Summer Institute Pt. 2

When we left off, I spoke of exhaustion. Being exhausted perhaps both spiritually and physically.

While the second and third days involved a melange of painful hiking excursions in a non-stop fashion, they didn’t begin that way.

Upon traveling to the drop off point from which to begin our hike, we listened to Father Nathan’s rousing words about paying attention to God’s creation as we entered into it. Then, with that spirit in mind, we started. I know, quite momentous, eh?

And then we got lost. And then found our way. And got lost again.

It was a majestic contribution to our time together, and looking back, I can now say that I find it most agreeable. Then again, it is more pleasant in retrospect.

We had two religious with us: Father Francis-Therese and Brother Benedict, and their part in keeping us on track was a rather enjoyable experience, and something that I wish I had documented with my camera.

During our trek, we were not content to walk idly without learning more about one another, nor were we keen on the idea of not joking about and generally being guys.

So we began parkour… ing… whenever we jumped onto some rocky outcropping or catapulted around a tree trunk, we considered that sufficient behavior to claim it as parkour.

We also learned about one another, and our siblings. I finally found another human who understood my Hamilton references, and thus began to have my singing stuck in his head. Ah, Cameron, thou hast truly opened a can of worms.

And yet not all of the time was focused on practical jokes, stunts, and climbing off the beaten path (it happened more often than you’d think). We began to take the first step into a rejuvenation of our faith.

We started by praying the rosary on our trek.

Turning to Mary in those moments of exhaustion gave me some strength to pull me further onward and upward. I daresay without it, I would have simply stopped on the trail as the pain overcame my short legs.

When we finally arrived at our camp on the second day, we first snacked, then learned how to pray the Angelus and use the Eagle Eye Psalter.

I can still remember Sister Francesca joking that the + and – sign under the words of the psalms meant that some were better than others. No, hopefully I’ll always remember to go up or down an octave when I see those again.

Father Francis, ever the man of great variety, led us in the prayers, something which continued throughout the week. His singing voice is something to be greatly admired.

Dinner, then a Holy Hour at Saint Peter’s Church, then back to camp for the great and mighty campfire.

There’s so much that I want to say, but without context, it would either sound utterly terrible or simply be lost on you. And that would also be brought down by the fact that I have an imperfect memory. I apologize most sincerely.

We had skits about hikes and BEARS, about righteous families with that one kid, villains getting advice on how to change from an angel, and coming up with a skit.

Not only that, but songs were sung around the fire, the cool breeze a boon to some and a detriment to others as the smoke slapped them in the faces. But all in all, a successful night.

As we ended, looking up at the night sky and its stars, with Father Nathan leading the meditation, I remember the thankfulness that I felt as I tried to smile all around at my brothers and sisters. I’d found another home. Another community.

TBC – M

By Heaven’s Sight – Eagle Eye Teen Summer Institute Pt. 1

Despite the timing of our journeys, there is always that part of us that sees them as infinite, spanning time and space as long as they remain fixed in our memories.

This principle is one that I wish to further examine and put into action, as what I have recently survived in Eagle Eye is something I never wish to leave, and rightly so, for Father Nathan himself told us to keep to that ideal.

During the week of June 11, I was thrust out of my old life of madly dashing and lazily sitting around, always alternating between work and sloth, and dropped headfirst into this brilliant experience that I hope will mark me evermore.

The first day, had my old bag, my assumed ability to hike a thousand leagues without tire, and then… not much else to be honest.

The arrival, the introductions, all things to be expected, the experience not proving to be much in my mind. Insignificant, one might say. Now, I enjoyed it immensely, but I didn’t really notice just how much growth would present itself from that moment onward.

I met my roommates, the usual immature (and I mean relative to me of course, because I’m one of the most prideful people I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet) child my own age or younger, and the intriguing males and females who would prove themselves to soon be firm friends.

I don’t remember much of that night. Memories sadly fade for me, even though it was momentous.

Secular songbooks, as Brother Philip called them, did play a big part, for we sang much, led by our fantastic religious and chaperones.

Father Nathan’s words about not looking at what we could get from Eagle Eye, but what we could give of ourselves to make it great… they’re still there. I can still hear some of them now as I write.

There are some things that truly made an impression on me, but alas, those finer points, those little details all have slipped between the cracks.

How I’d love to live it again…

The second and third days became the blur of my mind: The “exhaustion that leads to sanctification” some might say. There was enough pain there to allow my closed off and ultimately deepest stirrings in my heart to rise to the fore.

What have I and will I become? Was the question that I kept asking myself as I trekked those long miles, and finding that I was not as fit as I once was. Back in the day, I was sure that I could have hiked all those miles and more with a large external frame backpack on to boot!

A more superficial thing to be sure, but things that had been tucked away underneath that which is my odd exterior started to show in my mind again. This question constantly prodded me throughout the week until finally I surrendered it in confession and adoration. But we’ll get to that later.

The silence with only occasional speech was perhaps more than I could handle, and I began to fall into a weary pace of listening to my own pounding heartbeat and the more painful plodding of my feet on the dirt ground.

To the end of the retreat, my feet would buzz whenever I stood still only a few minutes. But then… that’s significant.

Led by the fantastic man that Mitchum is, my group of brash swashbucklers and parkour amateurs traversed God’s great creation. The woods were constantly humming with the sound of 17 year cicadas, the birds singing their songs, the sound of brief human conversation.

Again I remember the exhaustion, yet I sensed rather than felt that it was in a different way from when I was part of the outside world. Oh no my sons…

TBC – M

Before The Adventure

Bit of a short post, but hey, I’ll be gone soon.

Those summer adventures always seem far off during school, but then suddenly they’re right in front of you, and you wonder where the time went.

Basically where I am now.

Only a few hours left before I go my merry way!

Two weeks.  I’ll be off the grid for at least the first half.  The next bit… eh, we’ll see how it goes.

As a graduate, I’m kind of snatching at the last bits of high school before it fully passes away, so forgive me for stretching it thin.

It’s just a bit of a final desire before I fully transition into college life and its new set of struggles and adventures.

A last bit of indulgence…

-M