The Beacon Crafter Pt. 1

Have you ever been charged with making a fire?  Ever been charged with keeping that fire going?  Ever been charged with keeping that fire going with palm branches that quickly burn out due to their nature?  Ever been charged with keeping said fire going by your parish priest?!

It was kinda stressful, I’ll be honest, but fun in a way.

Maybe it’s odd that I find a high point in a time like Lent, but here I am, shooting upward towards the heavens again.  Ah, I wish I could just settle, or perhaps it’s good this way, experiencing a certain rejuvenation, a cleansing of the mind if you will.  No, I shall not have mediocrity from myself.

So, recently, I was given the task of being “the fire guy” during the Shrove Tuesday service.  You see my friendly old (or young) reader, I saw the fire, but not a world on fire yet, fortunately.  When we get there, heh, it would be wise to run.  Still, as I watched the fire, my mind went to Baptism, specifically the part with the candle, the light entrusted to the parents, to be kept burning brightly.  I’ve wanted to be a parent for quite a while.  Anyone who knows me realizes that babies are kind of a weakness of mine, and as for having a child of my own, oh, don’t get me started!  Of course, that all depends on what route I take, but that’s beside the point for now.

Returning to the fire, did I mention that I was panicking over it at times?  Yes, every so often, the wind would threaten to blow it out, and the flame would bend and crackle, shrinking in size and intensity.  My solution: throw more pine branches on the thing.

Like a magic trick, it would flare up for an instant, roaring brighter than I’d expected before, but in the next moment, it would die down to a quiet, resolute image, still withstanding the windy evening.  Other times, unfortunately, I came close to smothering it with too much thrown on at once, but if I gradually added on, the flame could grow.

Why am I writing about this?  Oh, things have just been going well, and depressing times are exactly that, so why not find some joy in things for once?

This whole fire thing, in case you haven’t guessed, is reminiscent of our lives.  I am the fire.  You are too.  Welcome to the flame club, by the way.  I’m afraid we don’t have nametags or any nice slogans, but we glow pretty brightly at times.

Being flames, we face a lot in our – pretty short, even without the analogy – lifetimes.  There are quite a number of storms in life, and even when we think we’re in a calm place, there’s that deceptive gust that suddenly blows through.  Now, that’s not meant to be discouraging, but it is what it is.  We sway, we risk going out, we blaze up when we’re most needed.  Regarding that last one, perhaps all it takes is some fuel.  My fuel comes from others, they energize me, they bring me to my greatest potential.  Introvert though I am, I need the people in my life.  They have an odd habit of sticking with me at the strangest of times, and I must say, it’s been the case where I’ve found myself in a situation, and I hear words of wisdom coming to me from my friends.  Some of these words are from so long ago, I’m surprised I even remember them, but there they are in the memory, aiding me in the moment.

However, the voices, the retreats, the brief moments of meeting, they’re not enough.  They are the quick palm branches that bring the blaze to life for an instant, but that’s all it is, an instant of intense power.  Friends are the lasting fuel, the huge pieces that take a little bit before the fire encompasses them, but when it does, it lasts.  Unfortunately, when you remove the log, well, there goes a foundational part of the fire with it.  It’s a sacrifice, but it’s worth the effort (cue Father nodding in the background).

A long time ago, I told a bunch of my peers not to give up, never to give in, because they’re not alone.  Well I pray none of them are now.  Isolation is a dangerous thing to play with.  Isolation and sad music.  Bad mix.  Kill it with fire.   Your fire.

Here’s some practical advice:  Make a playlist of hype music.  That’s literally what I did.  Make a playlist with songs guaranteed to lift your spirits, and listen to it when you’re down.  Then like… dance around your room or something, I dunno.  Fires move and crackle about, so I’m curious as to whether you can imitate them.  Send me a video or something if you can.

Oh, one more thing on us fires: Perhaps we’re stronger than we think.
See, during some of the times where I stepped into the church antechamber to listen to the prayers, the wind grew dangerously, and I’d have to rush back outside, thinking my beautiful fire would die.  Well, while yes, it did shrink, it never died.  It withstood the force, perhaps even retreated further than I would have liked, but it held on.  You hold on too.

I’m writing from the blaze, the high point, on a dual retreat high, you might say, even if both were more sobering experiences than “usual”.  I know I’ll be going down in time, but hopefully when I get back there, I’ll still be able to withstand the storm.

Why is this piece so childishly written?

Because… there’s no point in being grown up if you can’t be childish sometimes.  I think we tend to get bogged down with our worldly, adult responsibilities quite often, and we don’t really take time to kick back with authentic childlike joy.  That doesn’t mean ignore the reality, but a nice balance with escapism tends to do wonders.  ‘Tis my writing for me.

We are children, we are fires, both tend to be/go awesomely mental and wild.  Be it.  Live it.  Fire fire fire.

-M

P.S. It’s gonna be lit.  Sorry college fam, couldn’t resist, don’t start dabbing though, please.

Sky. Soul. Song.

You know what I hate?  Music shopping.  Seriously.  I think I’ve found that perfect tune, and inevitably, within a few short weeks at most, I’m sick of it.

Of course, listening to it Nonstop probably doesn’t help.  Welp, even on A Lovely Night, I shan’t be Satisfied.  Of course, tomorrow might just be Another Day of Sun.   May It Be the day I find something that I won’t ever grow tired of.  After all, songs are Little Wonders, passing by, heading off Into The West (a song I’ll admit to having feels over).

Hopefully you got all those references, but the point is, I constantly find myself playing such songs to death, and then after I’ve hit saturation point, I can either barely stand the sound of it, or I’ll only ever listen to it if my shuffle picks it up.

Music has always been special to me.  It’s allowed me to get in touch with my deeper emotions in a way that nothing else can.  It has brought love, fear, hate, strength, and sorrow to me.  And yet I cannot stand it for long, so I hunt for another to replace it.  The access point closes off, a now worn out path.

Why do I do this?  Well…

~

When I was younger, I used to lie back and look at the clouds.  I was enamored with the simple beauty present there, high above.  Indeed, this so affected my childhood that I named one of my first story characters “The Skyblade” in tribute.  He could fly above, suspended between, master of the domain, unencumbered and unimpeded.  He is free, and he (or perhaps I) still flies in my mind.

Today, finding myself with less time to lie down on the ground and appreciate the sky, I find that sunsets and sunrises are very dear to me indeed. The contrast, the warm glow, stretching across the blue expanse, radiant.
I always get a lift in spirits, especially after a trying day, seeing such things.
I do regret my inability to capture their magnificence in photographs while driving, but even when I do catch them, it lacks… something defining.

~

I must confess, I feel like singing when I see beautiful things.  Please don’t tell me I’m alone in that, but if I try to vocalize or form a tune, it doesn’t quite work out.  You ever try expressing yourself through spontaneous song composition? It doesn’t end well for me, and if I sing a song composed by someone else, it… lacks me in it, even if I can relate to what it’s saying.

I want to sing because there is something before me worth singing of, or composing poetry about.  There is something awesome in nature that begs my attention, something which I would be unwise to ignore.  When I see the sky, when my spirits soar to the high heavens, I wish I had a song to sing.  My being is overcome enough to need to pour forth a response.

~ My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior ~

Naturally, I’m nowhere near the level of Mary, but one can relate.  The outpouring, the cry of the heart, even the dissatisfaction, make sense in the light of one fact: that all was given by the Creator.

In their fleeting nature, these gifts have been made all the more precious.  Naturally, it’s easy to get frustrated with that, I understand, I am and always will be there with you, but there is hope.  So yeah okay, you might be single, or in a relationship that maybe isn’t as great as you had hoped.  Maybe you’re struggling with school (like me, yay), or a particularly difficult day/week/month on the job, or something else I can’t even begin to fathom.

I urge us, both you and myself, to find joy in the moment, whatever it is.  It might be more difficult, depending on your unique situation, but we have to seek it.  All things shall pass, good or bad, and we have to make the most of what we have been given.

On this Valentine’s Day – and really, every day that we live – when we see others, the ones we love; when we see things that cause our soul to sing, internally or vocally; when we are held spellbound by a sight… try be thankful for that moment.  Thank God that we get to live in the created world he gave to us, experiencing the life that he breathed into us.

Goodness knows, I’m not thankful enough for everything that has been placed in my path right here, right now.  I have not given the beautiful now its due.  So let the soul sing, and face the day!  Despair not the passage of time, but free your unique tune unto the world, verso l’alto!  It needs you as you are.

-M

Focus! – Abide Pt. 4

Songs can make or break you.

There I was, feeling rather stunned after everything I’d heard in the Used talk.  Processing would come in time, and only with help from my small group.  We took to the shelter of one of the campus buildings to discuss the three workshops, pulling couches and chairs together around a communal footrest before diving into the talks.

As that time came to a close, we had dinner and some free time before evening session quickly followed.  In truth, our free time dragged on in my head, but I’m a restless fellow, so –
Praise through song followed!  Raising our voices to the heavens with everything that we could muster was just one small part of our giving glory to God.  

Our keynote talk was on Communio and the Incarnate Son, or the connection between God and men.  In brief, by virtue of being Christian, we share in the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation, for it is we the Church who exist as the Body of Christ.  Our reception of the Eucharist holds a key difference to normal food; instead of transforming it and making it part of us (you are what you eat), the Eucharist, being Christ’s Divine Body, transforms us into Him.  We who already are the Body of Christ, continue to be purified and made more perfect by this wondrous gift.

Now, here was the big thing about tonight, perhaps one of the most profound experiences that I have had on any retreat: Father Michael, during Mass, had us pause and reflect on what it truly meant to receive Christ’s Body.  To ponder the depths and all that that reception was and implied.  It’s easy to get caught up in the words and actions, but do we really hear and see them?
Time and time again, the priest elevates the Host saying: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world, blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.”
And time after time we repeat the words:  “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  Do we mean them, or have they become a monotonous cry?  It’s easy to recite what we’ve learned, but to truly mean it is another matter entirely.  That’s why we had to be sure of what we were heading for.

So Father had us line the sanctuary steps, and, when we were truly prepared, only then would we step forward and kneel to receive the Creator of the Universe.  The Creator, powerful and oh so terrifying in His might, with strength to shatter existence… and yet… kind and merciful in His ways.  Was it easy?  Of course not.  Trying to understand Who was coming to me?  The One whom no words could ever hope to adequately describe?  No… I think not.  Yet He did.

Adoration followed Mass immediately, and as we mounted the steps, moving closer and closer to the monstrance, I waited for something just as profound, if not more so, to happen again.  Nothing.  Or so I thought.  Looking back on it, I was too focused on the big signs, the kind that shout at you with the force of a trumpet.  Maybe I was hoping Abide would be the time (because I’ve only ever experienced a powerful movement in me once or twice), but it wasn’t meant to be like that.  Nothing so dramatic as uncontrollable laughter, or resting in the spirit, or tears of joy… no charismatic experience for me.  No, I had something else, and in my honest opinion on par with all those.  My mind was clear.  Not that I completely understood everything, not that kind of clear, but it was just… free… free to consider possibility.  Dream in His presence.

The unity I experienced there, the calm contentment that came with my thoughts of family and friends, some long gone to me… the openness of this old heart of mine.  I knew His working in me, listening.  So I did what one might with an old friend who you just might be catching up with after a long, long absence.  I poured out my thoughts, prayers, worries, hopes, dreams… all to Him.  Some unconsciously flowing, others… well, my mind jumps around.  If we love one another… God abides in us and His love is perfected in us… In us, changing us… and here’s the odd part.  It connected quite uniquely to something that happened that same night… something that hurt.

The instance in question occurred during the Abide coffee house, which took place after small groups.  Many people sang for us that night, and it was brilliant, I loved every second of it, but the ending song struck me.  My best friend was singing a duet with another of my friends… a song of friendship of all things.  It was For Good, from Wicked.
Now me, if I’m zoned out, I tend to listen to the beat of songs more than the actual words being said; it spares me a lot of grief in the short run, especially when it comes to songs with subtle curses or just depressing lyrics in general.

Here however, I didn’t have the luxury of zoning out.  I was transfixed, spellbound even.  This friend of mine, by the way, is not just any friend, not to me.  No, she’s… quite something else that I haven’t worked out yet.  I heard the words, coupled together with the beautiful notes, and… well… I guess I kinda cracked.  In the hearts, if you’re a Time Lord, or right in the feels, as the kids say.  I’ve always had a number of concerns about people leaving for college, something which I most definitely did not get over last year, and they both dulled and sharpened here, in certain aspects.  Got me quite choked up, I’ll admit.  I think the lyrics that did it were: “I do believe I have been changed for the better…” and “Because I knew you…”

Knew.  That word alone might have done it, because it’s true.  Once people go out there, off to college, there will be changes to who they are.  You don’t quite get the same person back, depressing as it is to say.  I’ve had too much experience with my other out of state college friends to be optimistic, losing touch with them as they age past me.  Outgrow this daft old fellow.  I don’t mean to be disheartening, but… there it is.  Honest to goodness, my two cents and a bit more.

~ We all change, when you think about it.  We’re all different people, all through our lives ~

And yet… being changed for the better.  Ever having a part of yourself in the other and vice versa. That’s not only true of friends, but of God in us, transforming us by His work through us, until the day when we can claim: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  Those words – both of the song and Scripture – gave hope, despite the pain that they brought with them.  A good pain.  A pain that I could only hope to channel into authenticity.  True authenticity in my actions, ordered towards the one certain connection between me and my friend(s), no matter how our paths and lives diverge… Sainthood.

TBC – M

The Way It Began (A Return) – Eagle Eye Teen Summer Institute Pt. 16 or Finale

I woke up with the exhilarating knowledge in my head that I was homeward bound. Oh the bittersweet feeling. It’s always there, every single retreat, whether it’s taken the blink of an eye or longer, there remains that pull towards home.  It all comes under the human experience I think. That sense of belonging, of having that starting point to cling to when all else is starting to shift. That’s probably why moving hurts so much… but I digress.

I did make it in time for silent prayer, only stopping to take pictures of the sunrise as it touched the basilica and breathe in the cool morning air.
We prayed morning lauds, our hearts so united with our voices that you could hear everything we’d put into them as we sang and chanted.  It was a beautiful moment that can never really be recaptured, no matter how hard one might try.

Breakfast was a talkative affair as we prepared for everything that needed to happen.  We ran back upstairs to finish packing up belongings, and then congregated in the dining room for Father Nathan’s Spirit of the Eagle.  The main point in all that he said: The Eagle Eye retreat was not meant to fill us, as one might expect from a retreat, but instead to empty us, leave us yearning, thirsting, for something greater.  And yet we weren’t meant to leave Eagle Eye.  We were charged with taking what we’d learned and holding it fast, and that was the way we would keep it alive and burning, locked forever in our hearts.

As the talk wrapped up with much cheering, we trooped outside to the grassy field, breathing in the air and taking… groupies.  Not selfies, groupies, because I couldn’t resist.  If I never saw these people again, I wanted a collection of their faces.  Kinda like a face… album.  No, that joke didn’t pan out.  It’s not like I’m going to print out the faces and put them in a book!  No, certainly not!

So began the long arduous task of cleaning everything.  We brought every little thing down to the Saints’ Francis and Clare dining room, and took to sweeping up the remains of everything upstairs, replacing trash cans, drinking water every so often, and constantly reminiscing about what had taken place during the past week.
For those of you who have been following, I don’t think I really managed to emphasize the journey.  Yes, we learned about philosophy and theology to an extent, but they were not the all encompassing points of the week.  There was, at the deeper heart of the matter, the understanding that there was a progression, an adventure to explored, and I apologize if that never quite came through.

We had been called to greatness, and our answer was to reach the peaks as eagles, forging something that would mark us forevermore… and perhaps it did, in many ways.  There’s more to that point in the future, I promise you.  But for now…

I was racing up and down the stairs, carrying things, singing random songs exultantly and at the top of my lungs to the point where it annoyed some people.  I do apologize, I was lacking sleep and on the end of retreat high.  Singing about carrying things, singing about missing these people that I’d grown to view as a great big family, the usual thing you might expect from me in my madness.  Unfortunately, I was already getting into the mindset of thinking people gone before they truly were…
I think I tend to hurt people this way, and while it’s quite selfish of me, I just want to spare myself the pain of having it suddenly and instantly become a truth, surely something quite common to the human experience.

We had everything down, we finished one truly final choir session, and then it was into the basilica for a last prayer in front of our Lady of Consolation, as pilgrims and mass-goers from everywhere looked on in askance and astonishment at the sheer number of us crowded before the side altar rail.

Father Nathan blessed us at the prayer’s conclusion, and we headed downstairs into the crypt for Mass.  As part of the choir, I was privileged to sit in the front two rows as an odd tenor.  I say that because I honestly never did figure out whether I actually fit at all.  Voice lessons would do me good one day.
All that aside, Father’s homily on the importance of being a father was just… awe-inspiring.  There are no words to describe, and yet I couldn’t have recorded if I had wanted to, there was so much more in it than just the way he preached.  There was the passion in his eyes as he spoke, a fire burning, yearning to spread as he had hoped it would to each of us.  For indeed, joy is not something that can be kept within, locked internally, it must be released with all the force of an inferno.

It ended too quickly, and suddenly I was carrying my backpack(s) to the cafeteria, my feet dragging under the weight, as well as my own reluctance to leave.  How could I?  Just when I was getting comfortable with all these fine individuals, it was time to go?!
I didn’t manage to bid everyone goodbye, that’s the sad thing.  Many people left before I could, or were back at the retreat house, which I never looked back at.
I took pictures to try and capture what had happened, and those who I’d met, but… even their names start to fade.  By the time I am reunited, I’m sure I’ll have forgotten what face belongs to which… yet it wasn’t all bad in that ending.
It’s like… having an extended family.  You might not remember all your cousins and aunts and uncles – or at least their names, anyway – but they’re still family, and it can inspire you to muster up the courage to attempt to reconnect with them… one day.
I can only hope that it’s sooner rather than later.

And as I walked away from the happy scene of Father, CJ, Patrick, and Ethan all playing their respective instruments for the crowd of merry onlookers, I figured it wasn’t a bad way to go out.

Then again, I never left.

End – M

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

Old Habits Die Hard

High school is over!

It’s off to new adventures.  The summer, the excitement, the thrill of the warm air as it rushes past.  The light of a new moment, another journey.

I could go on, but I’m sure most people know the feeling, so I won’t bother rehashing it here.

College as a HS senior was an interesting undertaking, I will say that.  Professional Practices was – surprisingly – a favorite class of mine, and I enjoyed it immensely.  The same was true for Drawing and even Interpersonal Communication at some points.
It’s surprising how quickly it all went.
Now I can actually begin.  This is it.

I’m still me of course, constantly looking at what could be, and not really liking the fact that a lot will have to change if I’m going to survive.
It’s hard!  Change is hard.  Probably why I haven’t touched this blog in ages.  It was a relatively new experiment for me, and then all sorts of other things started to become the priority.

I started working and became a “contributing member of/to society” (as my friend likes to say), I’ve been constantly preparing for the summer and several retreats I’m going on; trying to get classes scheduled despite hiccups with adviser appointments and final transcripts; trying to keep in touch with the friends who will be leaving or I haven’t seen in a while, and trying not to be lazy and sit on my computer all day (I’m working on breaking the cycle… after I finish writing*).

Even that odd story I was trying my hand at has lain untouched for a good 5 months or more.  Maybe.  I might have last written in February actually.  The point is…

Time is… extremely fragile.  Fleeting.  Momentous.  Slowly turning.  I could go on for a bit.

High school was an 4 odd years; quick to go, with oddness, awkwardness, and yeah okay, the occasional great moment.

I’ve been gifted with great friends who I’ll probably rarely see, been through some adventures of the dancing type, the biking type, the camping type, the ceremony type, the working type, and just the ordinary… type.  Clickity clackity, there go my keys.

What can I possibly say at the end of such a thing?

I have been and still am grateful for that time that I’ve had to continue in growth, and as with any large turning point, it’s now back to the drawing board.

It’s like a new year’s resolution, but not really.  Brains be filled with balderdash.

Goal setting is the term I’ll use.  I need to be… realistic.  Write it out.  Keep it in view, otherwise I’ll forget, and there it goes!
Good grief, I just need a sticky note that constantly (and automatically) changes positions in my room so I don’t get used to its placement and inevitably forget it.
Someone get on inventing that.  I might pay for it.  Maybe.

Right, here goes!

  • Work on this blog (redesign, write posts, get with the program)
  • Edit and take pictures and constantly work on building up a photo album to look back on in the future
  • Journal more about momentous moments in life
  • Write my book (and hopefully finish it before the end of August, because good heavens I’ve been dragging it out)
  • Make time to read good books!  I haven’t finished a heavy book in a long while…
  • Draw (charcoal, pencil, pen)
  • Get more active by biking around or taking a stab (heh, it’s funny because I totally have a training knife) at the punching bag.  Maybe even do pushups on a regular basis again.  That way next time there’s a hike, I’m not the slowest man alive.
  • Write letters to people, because it’s the only heartfelt way I can probably keep in contact without being that guy who just shoots a random text now and then… ah sadness.
  • Keep my area of study (i.e. my room) clean.
  • Learn more swing dance moves so that I’m not a one note person thingamajigger.
  • Listen to and discover music other than Hamilton (although to be honest, despite the language it has that I disapprove of, it’s pretty addicting).
  • STOP WATCHING RANDOM VIDEO GAME PLAYTHROUGHS AND SCROLLING THROUGH FACEBOOK ALL THE TIME.  HEAVENS KNOWS THAT’S MY LIFE I’M USING THERE (pardon my rant at myself).

Well, there you have it folks, my madness on display.  Not like that was never the case, but sweet glory…

Consider me returned.  In a way.  Don’t think it’s too permanent.  Still getting back into the swing of things.

-M

*Blah writer’s block, but…

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