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

The Paths We Choose… – Abide Pt. 12 Finale

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.

– M

Calm Amidst Chaos – Abide Pt. 11

Joyful. Laughing. Actually breathing life in.

That was me when we got back to MSJU, and my friends on the bus saw it. Some of them were asking whether I was okay, I remember that much. I think what happened next was a quick move to small groups, because that’s the only way it makes sense in my head. DJ led us out to the furthest reaches and into one of the buildings, but as it turned out, they were closing for the night, so we ended up getting kicked out. Not a bad thing, simply requiring a reconvening which we managed with some semblance of grace.

As luck would have it, we ended up in one of the main hallways, sitting back against the walls and trying to speak with a level of normality that we wouldn’t otherwise have had, had the situation not required it. As such, we were rather out of it, finding even the most undeserving thing hilarious, though everyone’s story was quite a joy to hear. I can’t really write about what the others experienced, for in truth I was too far gone to really take note of everyone’s Nightfever, but it was an opportunity to just be.

Small groups ended (though we ran overtime) and we staggered out into the lounge area to acquire what was left of the food before staff took it away. I had a lemon meringue… thing. Cake piece. Not really important in the grand scheme of things, but it was good. I talked to my friend briefly, had some cake with her, and it was a good time. I don’t recall what we said, but then, when capture the flag happens, you can’t help but be distracted. I was on purple team/bus 1, but the game was not to be for me. In one of my earlier posts, I spoke of Sister Rose’s talk, and how her work with me that day was not over. This was it.

So, after telling my friend some of what Matthew had spoken to me about, I left her for the game in the darkness. We found the boundaries, scattered to hide our flags, and then went all for it, I cleverly concealing myself in the night… actually not that cleverly, it was probably cheating, but I concealed my purple glowstick wristband or whatever on my wrist with my other hand, boldly walking straight over the line in search of the flag. Nobody stopped me, or perhaps nobody thought I was playing, because I didn’t run, shout, or do anything any of the normal players did, I was just… there. A silent shadow.

Now, I could have helped win that game, but I saw the Sisters sitting on the wall, talking with some of the participants and prisoners of the early game chases. Sister Rose in turn spotted me, and asked whether I wanted to talk then and there. I agreed readily, and we took perhaps two or three turns about the grounds, pacing the stone paths, occasionally watching the madness ensuing all around us, but never quite touching us. I thought it was rather symbolic of something, but as it is, I’m not quite sure what just yet.

So we spoke, I sharing the warring natures within: the tug of priesthood on my heart, and the desire for my friend’s love and companionship. I pointed her out to Sister, though I was sure it was already known of whom I was speaking. I’m rather obvious like that, bad habit. It was a hard talk, because, well… she agreed with me.

I already knew from examples that I needed to keep a certain distance during my pursuit, and Sister shared with me her own story about a good friend who became a priest; not that she was ever attracted to him, but his wrestling with that decision of which vocation to pursue was apparently reminiscent of my own.  On the same note, she told me of the many women that are heartbroken when those men that they are close to leave for seminary and the priestly life. I felt rather terrible, even though I already knew that fact, thinking of the many times I failed to keep the friendship balanced between me and my friend.

Still, as our conversation progressed, I confessed that very fear of failure and uncertainty in this time of transition, the Spirit ever prompting me during this moment of collected thought. She promised to pray for me, that I would come to know God’s plan for my life, and, if that be in the order of priesthood, that I would serve as He desired me to.

Perhaps the most important thing she told all night was that she saw that I needed guidance. Guidance in the form of a spiritual director. That was the second time that evening that I’d heard that. Matthew too had spoken of how he saw that I was at a point where I needed one to continue to grow in my faith life. A prompting by the Spirit, perhaps?

Yet here I am now, long after that night and just starting college, ever searching. I can only hope to do everything in my power to find the one whom I need to aid me, and then trust in God’s time and plan. Because it was there on that last night – that dark and lonely, terribly yet wondrously powerful night – that I knew it was time.
Time to begin setting aside the younger, brasher, fellow that I was, and move ever onward.
Onward, towards the beginning.

TBC – M

Nightfever: A Good Man (Internal) – Abide Pt. 10.5

Despondent.

That was me during the latter half of the night and during a part of the bus ride.  You’d think the best place to find God is when He’s there right before your eyes, but no, this time, it was in the Spirit’s movement through good men.  I shall speak of the impact of two souls here: Matthew’s, and Robbie’s.

As Nightfever concluded, I ended up boarding the bus after a time of wandering cleaning, my spirit bogged down in ways that were not wholly earned.  A pain that felt like I had no right to own.  I lacked a worthiness for suffering, if that makes sense.

I sat in the back, thinking to avoid everyone and just try to rest.  As God would have it, I didn’t end up alone.  Matthew, someone who I barely knew, ended up sitting next to me, there in the back of that old bus.  We could have sat there and ignored one another, or maybe even joined in with some of the uproarious singing, but no, we were blessed with something greater: letting the Spirit speak.

He initiated the conversation, and I reluctantly shared what had happened during NightFever.  When I met the man, Robbie, and heard about his life, I remember an internal pain cutting me deeply, the kind that hunts out every gift and sees that there are worthier man who should have had as much if not more.  Robbie has a family, and a life filled with loss and pain, things that I won’t go into detail here because it’s not my story to tell.  He has faced so much, and still he continues on.  Before he left St. Louis church, he told me and Pablo that each day was a struggle, his own hope for the future fading.  That knowledge… it… it broke something in me.

I have so much in earthly goods, and yet I complain about lacking, of struggling, when in truth it is he who struggles with a darker, more painful reality.  A reality that I could never dream of experiencing, let alone surviving day in and day out.  I wanted to understand, to truly empathize, to feel his suffering, and all I could do was stand by, unable to help in any way more than prayer.  And even then, when I tried to pray, I could only picture a pain in the soul, a very self-centered pain.

I wanted to take his burdens onto my own shoulders, not in a good and holy way of dying to myself to live for him, but a disordered desire to escape my own pains in life.  To forget both my own sufferings and joys.  Forget myself and throw aside the gifts that God had given me.  Pain found in trying to heal someone, and there my own hope was brought low.  Yet this man, this brave soul, he fights on.  And as I saw him off into the night, part of me remained with him, and him with me.

Compassionate.  That was what God, speaking through Matthew, told me I was.  In my effort to help and heal the hopeless, He allowed me to share in the suffering, and as such, draw closer to His Divine Love.  My compassion was what laid me low, bringing me to a place where I experienced pain in my desperate attempt to bring aid.  Full understanding of that man’s situation will never come, but that belief in me by our great God above, that was enough.  My own selfish desire to flee for my own sake evaporated.

I stopped running, turned, and I shared my own story, some of my darkest secrets, past and present, in an effort to bring them to light and let the Spirit heal them.  It was through my vulnerability that Matthew himself opened up to me about his life, and we saw greatness in one another, the truth of the living Christ steadfast.

I told him of the tug on my heart, pulling me to the priesthood; the image I’d received and the voice I’d heard that week; and of her, my lovely friend, who had helped me grow in so many ways, and as such, marked me evermore.

Marriage to the Church or marriage to a beautifully human wife… wonderful desires, and to me, each just about as equally hard to lay down as the other.  Matthew put it in perspective for me: “Either way, you could end up marrying her.”
I had to laugh at that, for it was true.  That was definitely a positive.
Devotion and service to the Church touches each person united in the Body of Christ, and that meant… well… there you have it.

As we were having this really, really intense conversation, I was vaguely aware of the noise levels climbing all around us.  As our talk drew to a close, I realized that everyone was experiencing His presence, and the Spirit was flowing through the sheer joy emanating from each person there.  They were singing so magnificently, led by Mike, and here I was laughing again, my entire form tingling as if energy was coursing through my veins.

My mind wasn’t clear and free of worry, but the foundations of my own hope and trust had been relaid.  I won’t forget Robbie or any of the people I met that night, and I pray that their faces will remain etched in my memory, for Christ was truly shown to me through each of them.
Jim, our main speaker, had asked us to find our theme for the week, and this was mine: Joy in the suffering.

TBC – M

Nightfever: The Streets (External) – Abide Pt. 10

I returned to my small group pretty late, not fully myself.  We discussed what we’d heard, and then began… well… there are two sides to every story.  However, this is a bit different than the normal two sides.  This is me; everything I experienced, both inside and out.  These were the events of NightFever.

We were in the chapel, discussing what exactly was going to happen in simplest terms.  Seeking out those on the streets of Cincinnati and bringing them to join us in joyful adoration, however brief they desired.  To light a candle in prayer for themselves and all dear to them.

The golden sun shone on us as we rode the two buses to downtown Cincinnati, the doors of Saint Louis church having been opened to welcome us in.  Long had I desired to see within the walls, and now at last, I would.  We sang songs to the high heavens, even waving at those we drove by on the streets, I hoping that they would be touched by joy, however momentarily.  Some of the children even waved back, which was a pleasure to see.

The church was beautiful stillness, small and simple in design.  As all forty or so of us packed inside, I found myself looking around.  I remember the brown wood, the beautiful patterns etched in the marble walls, the cross hanging above the sanctuary.  I was tempted to sit near the back, but now was not the time for timidity.  I led my small group up to the front and to the right side of the aisle, eyes wide and trying to take in everything.

Now was the time.  The hour came, and we prayed that we would do what needed to be done, lifting our voices in a song to the heavens, that they would bless us in this time of need.  Then we were sent, journeying out to the streets.  My small group and Sister Rose along with us.  As we went, we prayed and sang our way together.  When we reached a certain crossroads, we split up: Ellen, Mariana, and Katie, with Sister; Pablo and I with DJ.

Making our way back to Washington Park, then along the less sketch streets, then near the main library.  DJ led us both in our route and our interactions with the people milling all about.  It was as simple as asking their name, inviting them, and… a prayer.  The Spirit was truly working, so many people were receptive to our praying with them, and even when I was stumbling, words that were definitely not my own came to me.  Christ within, speaking through each of us.  Power.  That was what we were given as we called on the name of Jesus

My spirits were so high, I remember, until… I saw him.  Robbie is his name.  A man who sought us out, asking whether we were part of the prayer group.  At first, I thought it would be a simple journey, just like all the others we’d invited, but… well…
I heard his story, and I was the one who led the prayer over him, asking for God to give him what he needed.  We walked back and brought him in, continuing to pray for him as he remained in adoration.  I thought it would end there, but then I felt… wrong.  Something to write about in the second half of this night, but I found myself unable to remain in the Eucharist’s presence for too long.

My friend saw me wandering about and offered to pray with me.  Praying for and being prayed over by people is easily the best experience that one can ask for, but that night I was distracting my friend, and I knew it.  I didn’t stick around long, not just because of that fact, but also because I felt a tug to leave and go outside.  I don’t normally feel confined in adoration, but this… this was one of those times.

I ended up going back and forth, inside and out, trying to greet those who came in, but my mind was ever in a chaotic state.  I tried, time and again to focus, to pray, but I couldn’t formulate anything authentic.  A blinding storm in my head.  Every few moments, vision blurred, I stared at the Blessed Sacrament, and perhaps I thought my mind would clear in those minutes, but… there was nothing.  If anything, the turmoil deepened further.  My spirit was heavy, and it remained so until I boarded the bus at the end of the night.

TBC – M

Dragon & Dreamer – Abide Pt. 9

St. Gertrude met outside on the lawn, all coming together for our parish meeting. We comprised nearly half of all the participants, so it required some splitting off to get a handle on.

I went with DJ, Mike, Joe, Craig, and Connor. Together, we sat in the air conditioned hall and talked about our next steps as they related to letting the Spirit work in our real lives, outside this Haven.  It was after all, only a matter of time.  Reluctant though we were as guys, we didn’t remain too silent. Each of us had our turn to speak, because we didn’t want Abide to just be a dazzling moment, we wanted it to make an impact that would mark us as we moved forward.

We got back in time for the talks, and of the two, I chose How To Respond over Let’s Pray.  I needed to know how to speak in charity and in love, and that’s exactly what I got.  Sister Rose, to begin, let me stand. I knew that I’d be falling asleep and dozing off if I so much as touched a chair, so I kept myself uncomfortable in order to be fully aware.  As it turned out, I might not have needed to stand.  The talk was so engaging, the Sister so full of life, that I was wide awake and able to shake off the exhaustion less than a fourth of the way in.

The main and beautiful point went further than being charitable even when speaking out against those who despised you. Yes, it gave the concrete plan of looking for those good qualities in the other’s statement.  Because that’s really what makes an argument more than just an endless yelling back and forth: the idea of looking for those commonalities and finding a starting point that can be agreed upon.  It teaches one to listen and be attentive, and really take what’s being said and find beauty in it, no matter how angrily it might have been presented to you.  Charity in the face of adversity, and love in the face of even something so strong as hatred.

For the same reason that we don’t reduce people to their attractions, we have to look for the truth behind their words, the interior beyond the exterior.  Both, to be truly successful, require love: the bridge across which truth walks.  And I know that’s a line I’ve repeated countless times, but it always needs saying, again and again until it becomes internalized, just like anything good and beautiful.

Despite these words (and some more I’ll add from my notes once I get ahold of them again), I remembered my position being attacked, as if it was targeted by the dragon, coming immediately after my declaration of openness to the pursuit of that path: Priesthood.  I stayed behind after the talk to speak with Sister personally, and asked for her help.  I have to confess, peace, charity, and all those things we’d literally just heard were far from my mind.

Turmoil… anger… but also an acceptance that there was truth to the statement… years before.  In a summary of her words, while what was done was wrong, there have been many steps taken to correct the faults of the past.  Those actions, while not so long gone, do not speak to the overwhelming majority of those who live that life.

~With great power comes great responsibility~

Regarding me and my view, I realize that, held to that high standard, they have so much further to fall, and as such, their faults are more closely examined.  Yet truly, when seen alongside other professions, it is the oh so very few, the one percent, that have committed such grave sins.  Thus, we continue to work towards atonement and renewal, seeking to become more perfect in our ways.

In light of this, I will continue to pursue that pull toward that vocation, a vocation which remains unmarred by the sinful actions of its members, and move forward to serve as God intended I do, not weighing my own merits, but ever hopeful in His plan for my life.
I have to thank Sister Rose for what she said, for it was by her words that a great burden on my spirit was lifted, and continued to be later that night.

Fury was in the heart and mind, of the dreamer and his hope despised.
Called by One who spoke of love, and the clarion trumpet, resounding greatness high above.
Challenged by the darkest eye, a battle of the will to die.
Anger though barely restrained, comfort found in the Sister’s ways.
Chaotic though his nature be, hope for love would set him free.   A path, a way, a hope, and Haven; The chosen road be laid and straightened.
No more should fear rule in his life, the holy cross he’ll take through time.
If fully called he truly be, then God will guide both you… And me.

M

Edict And The Eye – Abide Pt. 8

If you’ve ever been to Washington Park, just be aware that in the summertime, there are these lovely fountains that you can run through and get drenched by.  I managed to avoid getting soaked, despite walking through the midst of it, but many of my fellow retreat…ants… retreatants?  Retreatees?  Retreat family, failed to do so.  It was an interesting bus ride back.

Upon arrival, these soaked individuals moved faster than anyone could have expected in order to get changed before heading for the cold chapel.  While already chilly, I’m sure being drenched would have made for an extraordinarily uncomfortable time.  Once in the chapel, we had a chance to hear some of the things that others experienced, and I realized… I didn’t quite fit.  Speaking to our human nature, I know we’re all completely unique and as such, the way we experience the world will be as well, but that didn’t stop me feeling momentarily discouraged.
My friends prayed with strangers who touched their hearts, experienced and saw healing both internally and externally, and shared joy with the beautifully innocent.  I… well, I was more an observer, a quick movement in one’s field of vision, trying to help in those small, brief instants of time.

A simple man.  Lost again in my own mind, I confess, I stopped really hearing those testimonies.  My eyes were wandering, and… well, here’s one of those moments that clicks again.  The tabernacle was where my gaze fell, as it should have much earlier.  Was I distracted or simply refocusing?  As I looked at the tabernacle, I remembered standing in the gazebo and looking out over everyone from my elevated view.  I recall turning in a circle so that I could see everything about me.  I saw my peers playing ultimate, children jumping about on the playground, those running through the fountains, and those simply enjoying the air, the simple wonder.  All truly living.

Here’s where conjecture comes into play, but we had fallen into a silent moment between teens going up to give their testimonies, and it was in that time that I was sure I could hear someone speaking to me in conjunction with the image.  “These are my children, guard them well.  Your footsteps are mine.  I have chosen greatness for you.”
I don’t know if that sounds silly, maybe it was me being completely fanciful, or exhaustion setting in, but I was so sure that it was a movement.  It touched me at my core, because that was my dream, to guard, unite, and… hmm.  The point is, I couldn’t shake the surety that He was speaking to me, and that was just… empowering.  An unexpected gift in the midst of my distraction.

After that time, a small group adventure took place as all six of us searched for the rooftop garden.  We were quite the adventuring type, but in order for a discussion to start, we had to stop and sit down together.  Now, while the discussion didn’t last long (we were too eager and hyper to stay still), we basically continued what we’d heard in the chapel, sharing our own experiences before moving all over again.  Across the road we trekked, the sun sinking lower and lower with each minute that passed.  We ended up near the sports fields at MSJU, and found a table to sit around.  Somehow, our talk turned to charismatic experiences, and how each of us had our own unique way that we’d been touched by God, both on the retreat and outside its bounds.  I shared what had happened, and we prayed together, united.

And now… swing dancing.  Teaching just isn’t my thing, clearly.  I had fun, but I think I failed the many people trying to learn properly.  A few brave souls clung onto the little they knew and even stayed past the point where the majority departed for other activities.  Shortly however, it was then down to just those who had some form of experience.

My best friend tried to convince me to ask one of the Sisters to dance, but fortunately (because it probably wouldn’t have been right), they declined, so I ended up dancing with her (per their prodding).  At least six or more different songs, and with each one, I found myself lacking conversation topics.  I think I might have weirded her out by staring at her or silently raising my eyebrows at her queries, but that’s kinda… me.  Always awkward.  Towards the end of the activity, before praying the Divine Mercy chaplet and me “chasing” her up the stairs (depends on your perspective), we had a bit of a dancing couple circle thing, taking turns to swing dance in the center.  In all honesty, I felt pretty good about how she and I did.

Pro-tip when it comes to dancing with someone you like, but also wanting to maintain some sort of… I don’t want to say distance, but a sort of…  Your desire to uphold her proper dignity, because you’re not in any form of commitment, there we go.  Not just because people observe and talk, but for your souls’ sake, because it’s surprisingly easy to get too attached.  There, I said it.
So actually talk, and… try to keep conversation relatively light and carefree, but obviously not devoid of any depth.  And maybe don’t dance with her too much, but ah, I’m guilty of stealing the opportunity, so I’m not the best example there.  Last chances, last dances.

I won’t say it was a mistake, because it was good, mostly innocent fun, and I hope she enjoyed it as much as I did, but I won’t say it was the best way to keep my mind clear of worry.  “Worry about what?” you might ask.  The future, and whether those small things that I did, such as dancing, were what was best for our paths.
There I go again, ever the doubtful fellow.  Young and full of regret for the things I can’t change.  The eyes have it.

TBC – M