How do you start the day? You wake up, maybe shower, get dressed in a desired set of clothes, and then kind of just begin, right? The point is, there’s a certain preparation involved there. A time before you truly move and go out to face the day. All in this world had a beginning, and all will have an end. Maybe not the most pleasant thought, but then of course, if nothing ever ended, nothing would ever get started.
Of course, that begs the question, what started all those movements? What or Who is the first mover? Because we all had to have come from somewhere, tracing lines back and oh so further back until nothing remained, no time, no space, just Him. Because no mere thing could have started us at the beginning, no accident could have led to our lives, there’s too much order there to claim happy accident. To everything, there is a purpose and path that it follows… and that includes us, my dear friends.
May I just say, before I launch into the end of this, that it is my honor and privilege to have you read about the things I experienced during this journey, as with every journey. It’s given me a unique opportunity to share, and also to recount, that I myself may never forget. I hope never to forget, because this was one of my many beginnings, a mark across my life.
I was outside, having dressed rather hurriedly, hoping to see the last sunrise of retreat. I missed it by a bit, but the sun was still calling me. I stood out there, looking heavenward, and who should have been preordained to arrive, but one of the core team, Megan. She asked me how my week had been and whether I’d found a theme, and normally, I would have said a simple, “Oh, it was good, and yes.” without much elaboration beyond that basic thought, but this time, I decided to share.
So I told her what had happened in a rather overarching idea that ended with the theme: joy in the suffering. That was my gift from God, that I would experience suffering in the time I could physically see Him, so that when I would eventually feel alone and in pain in the future, I would remember His presence. I would remember that He had not abandoned me then, and He would not abandon me now in time of distress.
I think I stunned her a bit with my uncharacteristically blunt honesty, but we didn’t have much time to discuss it further. She was on her own mission, and I was on my own way. I prayed the Angelus out there one more time (such a beautiful prayer it is, thank you Eagle Eye), and then headed inside. I found my friends seated, as with previous days, waiting. Father Michael Mary arrived, he blessed the food, and we went in for breakfast.
Our morning keynote, our last keynote, spoke of our purpose, how each of us has our part in a greater story; greater perhaps, than we could have imagined. Case in point: Frodo and the his quest to destroy the Ring. He never saw the great movements he inspired by his self sacrifice, only heard tell of them in the aftermath. We never know what our part is in the grand scheme of things, but we can be assured of greatness; perhaps not of the kind that brings a dark lord’s kingdom crashing down as the earth quakes and enemies are reduced to ashes, but a kind that saves souls, returning them to the Lord’s own great and wondrous light. Our true calling.
We had final parish meetings all around, speaking of what was next for us. I managed to talk with my youth group leader before Mass, and he promised to reconnect the following week, to set me on my path during my college years. Then, at the conclusion of Mass, with all our families gathered, the farewells began: pictures, luggage grabbing, and goodbyes between old and new friends. While this was happening, I found myself speaking to Father Michael on the subject of spiritual direction, having already begun the movement that Matthew, Sister Rose, and Brad had all recommended to me.
As I talked with Father about this question on vocations I was having, I saw many of my friends walking out the doors, and I was aware that for many, it would be the last time I would see them for a long while, if ever again. Part of me wanted to go and rush to say farewell before it was too late, but I stayed rooted, listening and paying attention to what might well have set in motion the next stage of my life. That decision might well have seen to what I became next; my internal promise to obey Him, no matter what the cost.
Because in the end, it’s not up to me to decide that oh so tricky thing called fate. My path was seen long ago and far ahead, known and prepared by the One who made me. And no matter how many friends leave or sorrows I face, I must remember that something greater lies ahead. A greatness that I will understand at the end… the end which is a new beginning.