Veilstruck

I was walking through the Cathedral, my eyes directed at the distant ceiling, the sounds of the congregation in the background of my mind.  I was lost in what one might term awestruck wonder, the kind that I hope to never lose.  I was there, focused on what I saw, and I began to think in rather odd terms:  Beauty… and the Beast.  You look at that and probably think, “What in the world?”

Sorry, sort of, I just go off on weird trains of thought that require much reining in, otherwise I end up further than one might expect.  No, the words came to mind because of the Church.  I am a visual creature, most men are, and I was drawn in, captivated in so many ways by what I saw.  Bound by a love for the richness of art and design, I would be very hard pressed not to see something worthy of some sense of pause, some rich moment in which I give my utmost attention to the sight that fills my vision.

This is why I say Beauty… and the Beast.  Because I am a beast, an odd creature most never quite grow accustomed to, random and tangential as I am at the strangest of times, in the least ideal environments.  I am grim in the face of happiness, and full of laughter in the somber night.  I am in opposition to what should be, yet I cannot escape my own nature.  A nature which looks on, and watches, and remembers.

The beauty of the Church of course, while in one sense may refer to the physical building, on a deeper level refers to the people that are the Church.  I think I’ve said before, that when I see something or someone beautiful, it’s very hard not to have a song spring to mind.  Well there was a tune in my head again as I paced under the great ceiling, a song of rejoicing, of praise for the wonders of the Lord.

Beauty draws us in, we know this, on so many different levels.  I might see the beauty of a woman, and in that moment, have a choice:  To rejoice in its goodness, in her purpose so to speak of being a sign of God’s boundless love for us; or to twist it and capture it as my own, selfish in my grasping that which is not mine.  Each time I encounter that choice, I think it is at its most dangerous when I forget that I have a choice in that instant.  To see it as it was meant to be seen, for what it was intended, is something that I hope to always remember.

Speaking of remembering, the spring semester is over, it has been since Monday’s end for me.  I confess, I had this sense of loss associated with the experience.  Now, I might be glad that it’s over for a while, but there is that nagging feeling of a loss of purpose.  I had something driving me, pushing me on with each passing moment.  Perhaps that’s why I’ll appreciate work so much when it comes for me shortly.  My skills will have their place, and I will remove myself from my wandering ways once more.

You see, I’ve had this dream that has captured me, to go out into the world, across the seas, and take the adventure that is given me.  My purpose will be to walk where the great Saints walked, to tread on the ground where the great Marian apparitions occurred, perhaps meet with the order that was started by my Confirmation namesake, the Benedictines of Monte Cassino.  Perhaps you’ve heard me say this before?  It wouldn’t surprise me; I don’t think I ever really change, deep down.  I’ve grown in some ways, both inside and out, but my spirit is as restless as ever.

A conundrum if you like, when I flit from one thing to the next.  The grass may seem greener on the other side, but when I step onto it, it becomes the burden that I wish to escape.  The thing is, true beauty is never something I wish to leave.  It leads to a healing of the heart, when we immerse ourselves in it, surround ourselves with it.  As my parish priest says, “We are called to worship in beauty.”  It draws us deeper, pulls us in and out, paradoxically.  Inward because we become more aware of ourselves in light of it, and outward, because it begs… wonder.

Now, the question then becomes, if beauty is so wondrous, and it leads to a healing of the heart by its effects, where then do we find this true beauty?  We lead very ordinary lives, day in, day out.  We reap the fruits that we sow, we chase the things that can be seen, and oftentimes we forsake the ability to pause and reflect in and on the moment.  It’s simply impossible to fully leave the world and live in the heart of the Church, unless you go with say, a contemplative religious order, and love the Lord in that way.

No, for us, the ordinary folk, finding that true beauty is in many ways, a more difficult path.  A divided call.  Come now, it can’t just be me?  I feel as if the parts of life stand opposed, separated.  I’ve managed to bring parts of my faith into my secular life that bridge the gap, such as the Liturgy of the Hours, and those fantastic Catholic individuals I’ve surrounded myself with as often as I can, but there will always be a part that’s lacking, that full integration and optimization if you will.

One of my favorite priests said that if there is something unsatisfactory, something in our current lives that we know should be to give us the best good, then we should take steps to change our situation, and – God-willing – we will find that good, whatever it may be.  You see, that’s the bit that tends to get me, this constant pursuit.  I suppose I’m a product of the culture, or perhaps it’s just my own laziness talking here, but I like it when things are given to me with little effort on my part.  I want to be fit or strong or able to defend myself better, but I dislike most times going out of my way to say, exercise or practice martial arts.  I want to finish my story, but every time I hit a block, I barely attempt to push past into a new territory of thought anymore.  It becomes a struggle to write even one or two sentences, and it’s slow progress, and I’m almost at the point of dropping it for a while.

Those examples are small things, relatively speaking, so now take the constant hunt for truth, beauty, and goodness that haunts my every waking moment.  I need and want it, but only on my terms, my way.  The minimal effort, so to speak.  I began this post in what I think are much more hopeful terms (keep in mind, that this was written over several days), but I appear to have tailed off into what we here in my head like to call utter “doom and gloom” mode.  Oh, perhaps the rain is affecting my mood.

The point – if you read nothing else, and skipped to the end bit – is that life is a pursuit.  It is difficult, it is messy, we slack off for quite a bit of it, and we will not find the fullness of beauty while still on earth.  Still, we have been given everything already, by our loving God.  Imagine a box of LEGOs that’s handed to you.  The best part oftentimes becomes the sorting through the pieces and building the creation.  That’s what life is, I think, that continual hunt for the correct LEGO pieces.  We might spend a while hunting for that right one; we might lose a few (don’t worry, there are extras for that); but in the end, so long as we keep at it, there is every possibility that we will have that wondrous masterpiece of a set.

So today, if one would say a prayer and – I would ask – take a look at our own pursuits of beauty, the efforts we take to seek God, and just ask Him for that “desire to desire”, then we may move forward.  I think it fitting, as we drop off into “summer bliss” and a state of perhaps slacking off a little (which is fine if done in moderation), that we do so with some sense of purpose, leaving threads to pick up once more when we realize it’s time to go on.  On towards summer.

– M

A Night For The Cross – Eagle Eye Teen Summer Institute Pt. 12

Still Friday, right? They had warned about that day the night before. Here I go getting ahead of myself again. Or is that technically behind?

I will get this done before this next retreat I’m going on. Well, conference technically. The Abide Conference!  You might be like, “Dude, you’ve been gone for this one and then a Steubenville conference (that I’m planning on writing about, if briefly), and now a third?! You need to chill.” To which I reply: “I shall, after the last throes of my senior year are completely dead and gone.”
Just living in the moment, or attempting to.

So dinner was a time for impressions with CJ. Say what now? It was stunning, and such that it was absolutely fantastic. I have a video somewhere that is just magnificent. The diversely talented man imitated Gollum, Rachael (chaperone), Mitchum (my group leader!), Brother Benedict, Father Francis, Father Nathan (in 3 different tones, mind you), and a few others besides. ‘Twas genius, and in that genius was found hilarity of the highest degree.  I know I pass over it with mere generality, but there’s more that has to be said before I’m well and through.

And now at least we reached the pinnacle of our flight. The one greatest point of that week, even though I’m not sure I was fully aware. Certainly one of the most serious and unifying parts:

The traditional procession with the cross, a cross which – as explained by Father Nathan – had been carried by every group of Eaglets that came before us, passed down through the many long years to us here and now. Wrong tense, you might say, but it’s intentional, no worries.

That’s how we began, with our rosaries out, Psalters in hand, and the cross borne aloft by two of our number. My mind can barely picture them, so in case I’m wrong, I won’t name who I thought was carrying it first.  Station by station, we strode through the shrine park, praying and singing constantly.  I was content to be close to the cross, and ready to take it at a moment’s notice, as soon as the opportunity arose. It was one thing I had no wish to miss, and after a number of stations, I seized my chance along with Michael.

It was heaver than I’d expected, and my shoulder was displeased with its weight, but I nudged the wood over until it was settled at the base of my neck. I’d overestimated my own strength, clearly, so I prayed for some heavenly assistance to hold it aloft.
Unity. I remember that being one thing that was going through my head as I pressed my head against the cross. An appreciation and a realization that that experience was uniting me not only to past Eaglets, but also to the Church and Christ all at once. The physicality was a reminder of the crosses we all bear in life, and now I look back and wonder whether it felt heavier for some of the others: A reflection of the struggles we face, that we are given because we can bear them, and never alone.  So as I set it down and let Kate and Mary Claire (I believe) take it, I was prodded by a remembrance of my struggles to go to Confession.  Each of or most of the readings, funnily enough, spoke about the power of forgiveness, and it was after both standing and kneeling through several of these that I finally bit the bullet (so to speak), and sought healing for the wounds that I had.

As the night pressed on, we finished stations and moved to the grass in the park, where we knelt in a circle around the cross, the torches ablaze in the rapidly darkening night.  Then as a group, we picked up the divine mercy chaplet where we had left off earlier, making our way back to the white church for an adoration hour.  Many were invited to stay, but I was nearly out, so I headed for bed… well… not quite entirely.

As I mentioned earlier, the chaperones had already spoken to us participants about Friday. We were given the task of signing up in pairs for an hour session during all-night adoration.  So as my head hit the pillow, my alarm alerting me for a 2:15 (I think) wake up call, I prepared myself.  Father Nathan had said that a number of participants had received great clarity regarding their vocations during such sessions, and that we should be open to the call; something of which I remained skeptical, I confess. I didn’t want to walk into it with such a high expectation, so I chose to calm myself, rather uneasily. After all, would it really come so easily?

End Friday.

TBC – M

A Day for Dancing… – Eagle Eye Teen Summer Institute Pt. 11

Choir was definitely what happened next. I distinctly remember waving at my group leader, Mitchum, to let him know that I was heading out for yet another practice session.  My bit of joy and nervousness in life those sessions were. Father Francis and Sister Francesca did their utmost to help us, but ultimately, when times came around, it was up (or down possibly, I ain’t picky) to us! And good heavens was it nerve-wracking for me. It was some consolation whenever Alex turned to me with that look in his eye, nodding like we had something to confirm, as if to say “Yeah, that’s right, we sounded good during that song.”

I digress however. We sang for Mass, I did the reading, with some (painful and painfully obvious) mispronunciations, and then just like that it was lunchtime.  I could go on about the extravagance of the meal and the awesome cooks, because seriously, each day was something awesomely tasty.  Curse my head for forgetting, but I think… Luke’s birthday was that day, and if it was, I remember there being CAKE. Brilliant stuff, best quality, couldn’t argue with it, but rich enough that I only dared have one piece.

A quick cleaning followed, and then suddenly Brother Philip was asking me if I was ready to talk. I hadn’t forgotten the slip of paper, and yet in that instant, I found myself rather unprepared, the way nervousness does to you when you’ve rehearsed something in your head for a bit. So as we took a walk over to the Shrine Park near the basilica, I expressed what had been happening recently, in adoration, at home, with my vocation search.
A rather tall fellow, he listened intently with his usual calmness – something I deeply appreciated – before carefully constructing questions to make sure he fully understood what was happening. It made it somewhat easier when he agreed with my decision to hold off on pursuing a relationship with my best friend, considering both the distance and everything in between; I had to get it off my chest somehow, choices like that, whether or not I have a say in it, are hardly simple for me.

Somehow, we ended up sitting on the basilica steps overlooking the Shrine shop and cafeteria, the latter of which all my fellow participants were flocking to.  I concluded my talk with Brother Philip rather awkwardly on those steps, because I’m never sure how to transition on from deep discussion to RUN.  Yet that’s exactly what I did: I thanked him, basically leaped to my feet, and raced across the street at the drop of a hat, only stopping to pull open the cafe doors and fling myself inside with the force of a slightly small boy. Oh wait…

I promised dancing, didn’t I?
Sadly, I have no pictures of it for I was living in the moment, doing my thing without regard for capturing it this time around.  We began with a traditional Hebrew dance, I believe, led by Sister Kareen, which involved circles and fancy footwork, and then a rather interesting couple dance with bits of toe-tapping, hooking arms and spinning, and clapping on either side of each partner’s heads interspersed? I’m sure if I tried entering my (rather simplistic) “mind palace”, I could recall most of the steps for both.
I might suggest recreating it at the Eagle Eye reunion…

And then we went into another dance, maybe Irish? There was Do-si-do…ing, at least. No, perhaps I’ve truly forgotten this time.
Steps as they came to my head: Bow to your partner, one hand spin your partner, then both hands, then do-si-do (?), then the lead couple holds hands and basically gallop between the lines of guys and girls, then back up. After reaching position 1, the lead couple does this thing where they hook arms with all the partners and spin down the line until they reach the end. Then they form this arch under which all the couples dance or gallop, with the next couple becoming lead. Maybe I’ll draw up a diagram… good heavens.
If anyone knows what dance I’m talking about, please let me know.  It’s all confuzzled in my old head.

Now, picture this: we had all or basically all 45 participants, some religious, and chaperones doing this as one dance in a small cafeteria. We got everyone through as lead couple. And yeah okay, we split into two groups, but it still took quite a long time all through until To The Heights.

This last session I remember quite a bit, as men and women were split for our respective discussions. As men, we discussed good and bad role models from real life and movies/tv shows. I remember Captain America coming up quite a bit, especially in light of the recently released Civil War.  Integrity, strength, authenticity, were key terms that came up in terms of true manliness. Especially as future fathers, whether literal or figurative, we had to be sure that we were seeing and setting the right examples for our children.

TBC – M

A Step Closer, My Friend – Eagle Eye Teen Summer Institute Pt. 10

Long overdue, I apologize, but in-cars, long days, and semi-sickness took place first!

It’s usually the calmest moments that follow the storm.

I awoke with the awareness that I was running out of time there, Friday already planting itself like a lightning bolt to my head.

I dressed rather hurriedly, and headed downstairs with what had come to be the usual aching in my legs. I made it to the church in time for silent prayer (well, actually earlier than I should have, but…), passing through the front doors as was now my tradition.

Have you ever felt it, walking through the doors of a church or cathedral or basilica? There’s that moment right before you’re over the threshold that you feel normal sized, and the next thing you know, you’re dwarfed by the enormity of it all.

The high sanctuary walls and dome over the tabernacle, with artwork and beautifully intricate patterns running along the sides. The Latin inscriptions, the eyes of the figures, the paneled windows with their own unique symbols, and the gold of the cross.  All of which shout the glory and praise of God. All unto Him, for truly it is His after all, and we must not forget it.  That’s not to say that every Church has a multitude of such pieces, but each has its own significant magnificence.
Yet I digress.

Lauds, rather solemn because of Friday, the Angelus, and silent breakfast, followed by Lectio.

We, the Knights or Sons of Mercy (with a passable French accent?) reconvened at the classroom table, our newly claimed spot. We spoke of temptations coming our way, how we will inevitably have to face them, how there is no avoiding such things forever. How should one act?  The physical removal of oneself is one battle, and a turning of the thoughts another. There must be a training of our minds in those moments. Perhaps it’s some word that clicks internally, or an action that snaps us out before we can dwell on it.

Now, with a sudden shift of gears: Justice as it relates to Philosophy:

Firstly, it is bigger than culture/laws, for an unjust law cannot justify itself: Justice is objective, and it is grounded in what is real.  Friendship is one such force. With any good and true friend that is had, there must be a level of respect between the two individuals for there to be any trust.  What is told to that friend is kept in confidence, held in trust. Entrusted, because with a friend, that shared secret never leaves him or herself, for that friend is another them, to put it interestingly.  Friends share a point or several points of commonality over which to bond, often recognizing parts of themselves in others, whether consciously or unconsciously.
So between true friends, there isn’t a need for the subject of justice to be broached, because both already treat each other justly, with respect. And it is here in this gift of friendship that we see justice once more, naturally occurring in the interior laws of the heart, distinctly not man-made.

Now, that’s not to say that civil laws can’t indicate justice, but to do so, they must be in accord with proper human development.  This is why the death penalty may go against what is just. If there is a chance of rehabilitation for men who have done evil things, without endangering the lives of others, then it would be just to seek that route for these fellow humans. This is our way of respecting and aiding in their growth, which is due to them by their nature.

And back again to where justice comes from:  The nature of things and the laws of the heart.

Not the smoothest transitions, but I did pore over it for a bit before finally deciding to leave it as it is.  Oh… only about five more.
I have to say, since I haven’t said it before, thank you for bearing with me through my experience.

It’s an ongoing thing.

TBC – M

Solitude Unmasked

I am not alone.

I have to keep telling myself that sometimes, I will admit.  Actually, more often than I would care to confess at present.
There’s a longing for companionship somewhere in each of us, the whole ideological thought of lone wolves aside, at least as far as it pertains to humans.  Maybe you’ll get a rare few who just exist and naturally are content in solitude, but looking at the whole scope of mankind, I’d say there’s enough evidence that we’re all made for companionship in some form.

Marriage is a pretty obvious one.  Man and woman united, until death do they part.  It’s the idealism behind it… or is it?  Is it unrealistic to pledge oneself to one person until end of days?  In this society, the opposite is encouraged, but there’s something greater.  Something lasting.  So you’ll forgive me if I take my ideals over those self-lit pyres.  I still plan to have hope.

Holy Orders and Priesthood are other examples of companionship.  These can never be fully understood by those of us on the outside, who have never taken such vows.  And yes, granted, I’m also not married, but this latter section is more intangible.  A unity that cannot be seen by the eye alone.  It makes it unique in that respect, with each person united to Christ and the Church in some form.  There are differing aspects of course, but still pertaining to man and woman, and thus the model remains.

Friendship.  The one most relevant to me at this point in time.  There’s always that one person or group of people who just know and understand you, and they’ll stand with you, maybe not to end of days, but as far as they’re supposed to in the grand scheme of things.  Don’t take them for granted, and remember that each friendship is supposed to be mutually beneficial, helping both of you grow towards glorious heights.
With that in mind, there is a main difference between marriage and friendship.  The intimacy, obviously, but also, some simple imagery from C.S. Lewis, that I can’t exactly quote, but here goes.
Lovers face one another, wrapped in each other’s gazes, oblivious to the world around them.  Friends stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder, ready to take on the world.
Standing together, yet with a unique set of aspects.

So here I am, not exactly on my own, despite what I think.  I have friends here, but I have those moments of solitude which appear more frequently.  They show me what I’m truly looking for.  It’s not inspiring, by any means.  Good company can be difficult to come by, and yet we must continue onward, not lowering our standards in the face of loneliness.
Fortunately, it hasn’t come to that on my end.
Today my prayer for companionship was answered.  I saw a friend from RSP at school.  It was quite an unexpected blessing, but a fantastic one that I am truly grateful for.  It was another moment of unity that gave me strength, and I couldn’t ask for more.  It fulfilled a great need, and so I continue onward, past those flashes of loneliness and those long hours of solitude.

I remain hopeful, because I know where my weakness lies, and I pray that I can meet it head on.
Hopefully, you too will rise to the challenge, if you struggle with such things.

You are not alone.

-M

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