I’m slowly working my way through my old newsletters. I get quite a few email newsletters — three from Christianity Today alone (which is Protestant). In the one I just read, from March 3, there was a link to an article on evangelism, “Searching for the Gospel of Jesus,” by Donald Miller. The blurb was interesting, so I read it. Truth be told, I didn’t get much out of the article, except for one section.
On yet another occasion teaching that same class [on the Gospel and culture], I presented a form of the Gospel but left out a key element to see if they would notice. I told them in advance that I was going to leave out a critical element of the Gospel, and I asked them to listen carefully to figure out the missing piece.
I told them man was sinful, and this was obvious when we looked at the culture we lived in. I pointed out specific examples of depravity, including homosexuality, abortion, drug use, song lyrics on the radio, newspaper headlines and so on. Then I told the class that man must repent, and showed them Scriptures that spoke firmly to this idea.
Then I spoke of the beauty and rewards of living a moral life. I talked about heaven and told the students how their lives could be God-honoring and God-centered. Repenting, I said, would give them a sense of purity and a feeling of fulfillment on earth.
When I was done, I rested my case and asked the class if they could tell me what I had left out of this Gospel presentation. I waited as a class of Bible college students — who had all taken an evangelism class only weeks before in which they went door-to-door to hundreds of homes and shared their faith — sat there for several minutes in uncomfortable silence.
None of the 45 students realized I had presented a Gospel without once mentioning the name of Jesus.
I’m reminded of a Facebook group, one I know Greg belongs to, called “Jesus Was a Pretty Cool Guy, But I’m Not, Like, Totally Enamored with Him.” In contrast, I belong to the simply-titled “I Love Jesus!!!” and “Love,” which is also about Jesus but not as popular as the former. Perhaps it’s just easier to convince people to be good for the sake of goodness, than because of the whole eternal union with Jesus (and the rest of the Holy Trinity) in Heaven thing.
“Heaven thing” reminds me that I never wrote about retreat. Oh, man. Retreat was awesome. I had some incredibly high moments, and some low moments, and a few moments of panic, but it was still a great weekend.
I got to the CSC around 2:40pm. We didn’t have to be there until 4, but I finish class at noon MWF, so I just had to pack and get over there. I did the Stations of the Cross rather than start my daily rosary right away. (I’ve been praying the rosary every day for Lent, same as last year. It may stick this year.) That was my first time doing the Stations. It was really cool. We had some awkwardness trying to get into position as we moved around. There were chairs in our way, and I have long legs, and I didn’t know the tune of the “Stabat Mater” at first, so I just had to follow. If nothing else, the fourth Sorrowful Mystery is infinitely easier to meditate on. And I decided to do the Stations every Friday of Lent, which is why my mom and I went to St. Columba this past weekend. After Stations, I went back into the Chapel to pray my rosary.
The next couple of hours went by very quickly. We averted a small crisis with Jim, created a large cross from some boxes Gina and I scrounged up, prepped dinner, and started signing in the retreatants. I was all over the place. There are always two coordinators (or something like that) that are in charge of retreat (after Fr. Bill and Michelle, of course); they’d picked Mike and me. On First Timer’s, Mary was the female coordinator. All weekend, I had this sense of being Mary, which was made stronger by her presence as a retreatant. So, after dashing all over the place, I finally got to settle down to eat and mingle. Maura showed up late, distraught and panicking a little because she was running even later than she’d planned and I hadn’t been answering my phone (it was on quiet), but she cheered up. Michelle told me during dinner that the buses would be late, which almost sent me into panic mode, but Mike immediately decided we should just do our opening activity at the CSC instead of Blue Ridge Summit (PA, where the retreat houses are).
After some fun with hard-to-pronounce names, we broke up into small groups. We introduced ourselves and played Two Truths and a Lie. My small group was Tom, Mike C., Duy (read: “Dewey”), Katryn, and Sara. Tom, Mike C., and Katryn were all seniors, which was intimidating for sophomore, second-CSC-retreat me. I used liking basketball as my lie and my HP obsession as my truth. Tom actually didn’t believe the HP thing. I was like, “I can tell you don’t know me very well, ’cause you never would have doubted that one.” We also had to make up a group name and a cheer. We called ourselves Team Omega, with the very simple and liturgical chant, “Team Omega: The last shall be first.”
Then the buses showed up, so we gathered up our stuff and hauled it to the street. Fr. Bill had already driven up with Alex, Michelle drove her own car, and everyone else got on the two buses. Mike rode one, and I rode the other. Someone (I don’t mean that sarcastically; I honestly forget who) dropped a case of Pepsi outside, so we just handed out the slightly misshapen cans to anyone who’d take them. I was last on my bus, so I wound up sitting alone, but it gave me time to think… and I needed it. I led the bus in prayer when we finally got going. I’d been thinking about doing that for a while, so it was less ad-libbed than I imagine it sounded. And I worked St. Frances of Rome in there, since she was such an appropriate intercessor (see sidebar). I talked with Chris and Kaitlyn a little on the way up, but I spent a lot of it just staring out the window, musing away, and praying I’d do a good job.
We had enough girls on this retreat for two houses. I was in the old one, so I wound up on the topmost floor with Katie. It felt like a strange RA double, since she was on the retreat team, too. The group assembled again to perform our “cheers”… most of them were more like short skits. … (I left my retreat folder in the dorm, so I’m trying to recall all this from memory. It’s hard.) We had Mass, at which I read. While I was volunteering myself to Michelle, Fr. Bill commented, “It’s not Mass if Lindsay doesn’t read.” I replied, “It is so still Mass,” because it is. It’s not Mass if Jesus doesn’t show up; it’s still Mass if I’m just part of the congregation. Don’t make the whole pride thing any harder than it already is, Father. Everyone else went off for late-night pizza after we exposed the Blessed Sacrament, but I stuck around to adore for a bit. They left the monstrance up all night, but I knew I needed sleep to be able to function, so I did my time before bed instead of at like 2am. I was only partway through the Woman at the Well meditation (which turned out to be the wrong one, but whatever). Before I finished, though, Michelle kidnapped me for Stations practice. I got to bed around 1am, I think, which was not great.
I woke up at, like, 7am on Saturday, which is a travesty in itself. The top floor is basically the attic, so the ceilings were slanted. I felt like being in that bathroom for too long would crush my spine. With the way I put my hair up for bed, the ends kept brushing against the ceiling. I wasn’t quite sure how to wake up any of the girls without an alarm clock (read: cell phone), so I wound up just shouting from the staircase. Jim gave his witness after breakfast, which was absolutely applicable to my life. Stupid snooze button. I swear, tomorrow morning I am getting out of bed when my alarm goes off. It’s just harder when I don’t have to climb down from the top bunk so Maura won’t kill me. ;) After the witness, we had our first small group discussion. We had a lot of small group time over the course of the weekend. I’m not great at leading discussions, but somehow I was not half bad with my small group. I shared, but I made sure to keep it mostly about them. Mike C. never talked much, but he didn’t seem to be left out, either. Perhaps he’s just not a talker.
Saturday was a busy day. Gina, Laura (maybe hers was Friday…), Brendan, Chris, and Mike all gave witnesses later that day, so we had small group time after everyone’s except Mike’s. Gina mentioned Eric Erikson in her speech. Everyone had one of three reactions: “The psychologist?” “The Viking?” or “Who?” I was in the first group, mostly due to my Adolescent Dev. reading. Brendan mentioned a Gonzaga senior retreat tradition, where all the guys have secretly-written letters from their families read aloud. We got the same thing on my first retreat ever (and the only one I went on before First Timer’s), only they let us read ours to ourselves. I still have mine, one from each of my parents. I cried when I read them. Laura talked about making time for God in her life, which I could also identify with. My life seems to only get better when I let God farther into it. Sometime in the summer, I started reading the Bible every day. I follow along with the lectionary, so it’s a twofer because I’m prepared to read at any Mass I attend. I also do it with an actual Bible, not just the screen and my Word Among Us meditation, so I’ve started to learn how to navigate the book itself. Chris talked about his first trip with Habitat for Humanity. I think his was the witness on God’s love. Forgive me, all, for my wandering mind. Nothing can truly command my full attention lately.
In the afternoon, we did our skit. We parodied Lost… sort of. Some of us were based on Lost characters; I was part of the trio of random Catholics on the island who’d lost their faith, hope, and ability to love (the theme of our retreat: the theological virtues). I was Sara, i.e. love. Mike played the narrator, so he set up background music for us, which really sealed the skit’s position as Best Ever. No, I heard some of the retreatants actually said that. The plot started with some of the Lost characters being unloving and such, then Egbert (Brendan… he chose his own name…), Jill (Gina), and I did our bits with losing our virtues. I stumbled upon a hatch, which contained the Holy Spirit’s (Chris) secret lair. Then Egbert got his hope back and found a cell phone. “And it’s actually getting a signal! Who should we call?” Jill: “Ghostbusters!” Me:”Um, how about we call the Coast Guard instead?” Jill: “You know who’s even better than the Coast Guard? The Priest Guard!” So we called the Famous Father Bill (and Michelle), who arrived on the Holy Sea (pun pun pun) to the theme song from Austin Powers. He heard our fake confessions: Jill and Egbert each got two Hail Marys; I got 87,000. That was not in the script. Then the sin clouds kept Fr. Bill from reaching the others whom they’d captured, so the Holy Spirit came back and helped Fr. Bill give them the smackdown to appropriate fight music. I had no idea he was actually going to hit them with holy water, so I was dying of laughter over in the Holy Sea. With the sin clouds defeated, we all sailed away on the Holy Sea to much applause. It was great fun, and the first time anyone’s ever asked Fr. Bill to be in their skit.
We took a break in the afternoon, which Fr. Bill randomly decided to start with a rosary walk. I’ve never done that before, but I kinda liked it. I volunteered for either the first or second Joyful Mystery, so I didn’t have to worry about being out of breath as much as the later-decade leaders did. I had some trouble praying aloud while climbing over unexpected hills and not running into Maggie or Cleo (Fr. Bill took his dogs for the walk, too), but it was enjoyable. The team got together after the walk to rehearse Stations again, then I watched a ton of boys (and like two girls) play basketball while I talked, and then I don’t remember what I did. There was no naptime, though.
After dinner, we finally did the Stations. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Stations of the Cross are (traditionally) fourteen events in Christ’s Passion from his sentencing before Pontius Pilate to the Resurrection. Instead of just printing (or worse, drawing!) pictures of the Stations, we decided to shadowcast them as in years past. Jim played Jesus, Lacy played Mary, and everyone except Alex and I filled in the other necessary roles. We hung a white sheet in the middle of the basement, flanked by blankets, and “tested” the emergency light to create shadows as the actors portrayed those fourteen events. It was wonderful. Jim and Lacy’s Pieta was a bit too far to the right, and the nailing-to-the-cross sound effect was too quiet, but they did a really good job.
We went back upstairs in silence for Mike’s witness on moral balance. He turned it into a football metaphor, which was actually good. Then we had Confession with Fr. Bill, Fr. Gurnee, and Fr. Woods. My Confession experience was awesome, as usual. I’ll just say that there was something bothering me, a question I had for God, and he answered me. I started getting the answer before retreat, but I definitely got it while I was there, and made up for how I’d acted in the meantime. I suppose I am patient for a reason. I’m listening hard for that next message, though. Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. (1 Samuel 3:9)
We had a vigil Mass after Confession. Fr. Gurnee gave the homily, which consisted mostly of praising all of us on retreat for being so vibrant and enthusiastic about our faith. Then we had a small bonfire. We tried to start a sing-along thing, but we could never keep any song going for very long. We all wandered back up to the main retreat house after awkwardly putting out the fire, where I lurked for a while before joining a game of Cranium. I got to bed late again, but it was such a great day.
I woke up so late on Sunday. I managed to wake up to my alarm, turn it off, and fall back to sleep. (See previous comment about not snoozing.) I was late for breakfast. Since I’d been frantically keeping people on schedule all weekend, that was pretty embarrassing. Fr. Bill and Michelle had switched Stations and the skit midday Saturday, but I was totally on top of it. Toward the end of breakfast, a bunch of the boys performed the song they’d written late Saturday night, complete with bagpipe solo by Alex. No, seriously. It was about Michelle:
Oh, Michelle, you’re off to the nunnery
Well, I guess God called you back
A long white veil would suit you well
But now you’ll be wearing black
Oh, Michelle, you’re off to the nunnery
Won’t you take my heart along?
It won’t do me good to keep it here
‘Cause you are the only one
It made a nice complement to Fall Retreat’s “Xylophone Song,” written and performed by most of the same people. We “shared graces” after breakfast, which mostly meant telling what we’d liked about retreat, and then we took pictures, did final cleanup, and got back on the buses. I led us in another prayer for the way back, this time in thanksgiving for the great weekend. We did an impromptu North Campus dropoff, then unloaded at the CSC. Maura and I stuck around to help put things away, then we got a ride back to our form from Allen.
Retreat was just fabulous. I had a lot of time to just relax and think, to pray and worship, and to be in fellowship with all the other CSC people. Fr. Gurnee came with three or four students from GWU, which was cool, though I didn’t spend much time with them. I got some good leadership experience. Several people guessed my major just from the way I handled retreat. I was worried about coming off as too bossy, but apparently I didn’t. Alecia (the campus minister from GWU) said I did a good job of being nice, but not allowing any room for argument. When I said, “Please throw away your trash and start heading toward the main room,” I meant, “Go now.” Fr. Bill thinks I’d make a good principal.
So now, I just have to figure out how to keep that retreat spirit going. I came down off my post-retreat high far too soon, since I had so much work to do Sunday afternoon. I already spend a ton of time at the CSC. The people there are just so much fun. It’s nice to have friends that I pray with, talk with, and watch Pirates of the Caribbean with. So thank you to all my CSC friends, and my non-CSC friends, and everyone in between. I know God loves me, but it’s nice to have His love come through you all, too.