Tag Archives: young adult spirituality

“Waking Up the Echoes”: Notre Dame, Liturgical Formation, and the New Evangelization

Laura TaylorLaura Taylor
Master of Theological Studies Candidate,
University of Notre Dame

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This is the first in a new series, offering musings on liturgical formation for emerging adults and the New Evangelization, from the heart of U.S. Catholicism.

Praying intently or sleeping soundly? Who can tell?

Praying intently or sleeping soundly? Who can tell?

We’ve all been there. You slump into the pew on Sunday morning, bleary-eyed and exhausted from a late night out with friends, murmuring prayers inaudibly along with the dull drone of those around you. Your eyes might glaze over during the readings while you contemplate your to-do list, which probably includes a mountain of homework you’ve left to complete at the last minute and figuring out how to nonchalantly ask the super cute guy in Calc class to your dorm’s dance next weekend. You might even “accidentally” close your eyes during the homily and wake up minutes later to the cacophony of kneelers hitting the floor, clumsily staggering to your feet and glancing around to make sure your lapse has gone unnoticed. Before you know it, you’re lining up for Communion; your hands stretch out mechanically to pop the little round wafer into your mouth, its taste dry and vaguely reminiscent of cardboard. You exit the church exactly the way you entered it: unchanged, untransformed, and completely unaware of the glorious mystery you’ve overlooked.

On the other side of the altar, the cantor stifles a yawn during the readings while mentally rehearsing the psalm and staving off pre-performance jitters—the church is fuller than usual, and her friends in the crowd haven’t heard her sing yet. Her proximity to the activity on the altar ensures her distraction for the rest of the hour; after the closing hymn ends, she, too, leaves the church heartbreakingly unconscious of the cosmic nature of what has transpired. She strides briskly away from the sanctuary (where, in Tolkien’s words, one finds “romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth”) to meet her girl friends for Sunday brunch.

Before you start formulating any judgments, I’ll let you in on a little secret…the person in these two stories is me. A graduate student in liturgical studies and “Double-Domer” at Notre Dame, and I can’t even get liturgy right! And so, the idea for this column on liturgical formation and the New Evangelization was born. Racking my brain for ways to write on this without sounding like another Campus Ministry pamphlet, I was inspired by a quotation from the former French Lutheran minister-turned Catholic convert Louis Bouyer: “Jesus dead and risen, Jesus living in the Church, is the explicit sign of our vocation as children of God, and he is also the first and perfect realization of it.” As children who have now grown into adults, and more importantly, as the children of God, we have received an incredible invitation to encounter the truth and heart of our faith: Jesus Christ living in the Church. But seriously, how in the world can we do this?

Liturgy at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre DameAfter countless hours of prayer and often-discombobulated theological musings, I offer you one unimaginably beautiful suggestion: through the liturgy. Yes, that one hour of the week on Sunday mornings that somehow seems to stretch interminably longer than all the rest, especially after a particularly late Saturday night out on the town with friends–because Catholic undergrads and graduate students like myself stand in the midst of a whirlwind of exciting activity within the Church: the New Evangelization has been called, we have the incredible good fortune to have Pope Francis as our new Shepherd, and in response to the great social and political upheaval in our world today, we have the resounding legacies of Blessed John Paul the Great and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI upon which to firmly plant our feet. Through an immersion into the liturgy, we have the opportunity to form ourselves as Catholics in a radically new way.

Many rightly argue that the flagging faith of young Catholics must be reversed through robust catechetical instruction, both in the home and in parochial religious education. Catechesis is, of course, a necessity—but I contend that it is what we pray and how we pray that truly forms us and catechizes us about these profound mystical realities in the liturgy and in our faith. This practical formation in the liturgy is the ultimate catalyst for interior transformation and renewal. This concrete exploration of the Catholic Church’s rich liturgical tradition is what we hunger for.

Each of us is on a pilgrimage of faith in a world rapidly distancing itself from religious attachment—we all bear a complicated entanglement of emotions, habits and desires that prevent us from stemming the overwhelming tide of secularization, but we also have the great fortune to place our complex and confused selves completely before God in our celebration of the liturgy, and encounter Christ living in the Church. For my part, as a liturgical musician I yearn to strike a balance between performance and sincere prayer. As a graduate student in theology, I endeavor to meditate on the readings of the day as an exercise in theological exegesis. Moreover, as a twenty-something, maturing Catholic woman, I hope to attain the knowledge of self-giving love through steadfast prayer and reception of Communion, reflections on the Paschal Mystery, and a growing Marian devotion, that I might prepare for my vocation as a loving wife and mother one day.

Ultimately, the intended purpose of this column is to enkindle a love for the faith, and a love for the liturgy, while navigating the challenges and triumphs of forging a unique and often precarious identity as a young Catholic trying to live in the world, but not of the world. To adopt a phrase close to the hearts of the Notre Dame community, its intention is to “wake up the echoes” of the Church’s liturgical treasury, and introduce fresh ways of thinking about the Mass, the Office, and other liturgical devotions in these pivotal years of college, graduate school, and our forays into the professional world.

Now is the time for us to “wake up the echoes” in the sacred liturgy–to undergo a transformation that will allow us to enter more freely than ever before into the divine mysteries of our faith. The treasures of the Church are lying in wait for us: all we have to do is explore them.

Happy, Happy Friday: Trusting to Look Up (Feast of the Holy Cross)

Laura McCarty

Notre Dame Alumna, Class of 2011

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PRELUDIO: All right, folks: it might be September (in fact, it’s actually September) BUT anytime someone stages an improv musical in a mall in Jersey, it’s awesome even if it’s not anywhere near Christmastime:

Sitting on Santa’s lap is one of those things (like being ignorant of the dratted nutrition facts label) that we just miss from our youth. So sing along in your heart, people, and HAPPY FRIDAY!!!

HOLA, PEOPLES!!!,

So now we need to talk about weird high school mascots. High school was enough of a quirky life-phase as it was (where everyone had braces and unintentionally creative hairstyles), but you’d be pretty darned proud if (instead of being an Eagle or a Bear or a Tiger or, say, the Fighting Irish), your mascot was…

(and before we kick into the highlights reel of this list, you seriously should check out the list if you have time, mostly to see the pictures of these epic mascots. They look pretty legit).

And now, for the highlights-reel version for the 24 people worldwide who aren’t mild-to-severe procrastinators:

  • The Laurel Hill Hobos (I want to hear the backstory on all of these, but especially this one)
  • The Chinook Sugar Beeters (never mind, I want this story first)
  • The Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms (you could call them the Fighting Flowers. Feel the fear.)
  • The Richland Bombers (logo: a bomb cloud. Hey, it’s easy to draw on a banner or whatever).
  • The Ridgefield Spudders (even though it’s cheesy, I hope they (sour) cream their competition. BAD PUN, I KNOW.)
  • New Braunfels Unicorns (at least they tried to make the unicorn look intense. I feel like opposing teams send them Lisa Frank folders as hazing).
  • Watersmeet Nimrods (you’d just have to get used to the other teams using the same three jokes on you, every single game…it’s a hard-knock life when you’re the Nimrods).
  • And finally…the Rocky Ford Meloneers (a watermelon in wrestling shorts and yellow tennis shoes. He smashes opposition to a pulp. If you hate puns, you’ll never forgive me for that one either).

And now that you’ve finally broken down and read the actual list, we can keep moving along ;)

THE HEART OF THE EMAIL: Or, Trusting to Look Up

Youtube clip of the week (if you feel like this isn’t the chipper-est song at first, just wait till the end. It’s worth it):

So in the book version of “The Little Mermaid”, when the little mermaid’s wish to go on land is granted by the sea witch, she has to give up her voice…AND the other catch (the part that Disney left out) is that every step the little mermaid takes on land with her new feet causes her physical pain.

Maybe we can’t sympathize with her plight every minute of every day, but we still feel the pains of not being what we were made to be. We’re all living in a place not our home, and so many of the steps along the way are painful. It’s especially difficult when we rediscover how wounded we so often are and how far from perfect we feel. When we fall short of our own expectations or discover some shadowy corner of ourselves that horrifies us, we often spend so long looking at our own wounds that we forget to look at the hands that are reaching out to heal us.

As C.S. Lewis says, when the saints walked around saying that they were wretched people, they weren’t kidding. They weren’t putting on any airs of false humility: they really did find themselves to be (at best) terrible messes of sin and broken humanity. But they didn’t stand looking at themselves longer than they had to, and then they looked outward: towards others with love, and always to God with trust that He was wider than their wounds.

In “The Chronicles of Narnia”, Edmund tries to betray his three siblings to the evil White Witch. After he’s eventually rescued by the soldiers of Aslan (the great Lion of Narnia), Edmund and Aslan speak with each other alone for a long time. Then the Witch arrives to take Edmund the betrayer back as her property:

““You have a traitor there, Aslan,” said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund. But Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.”

As we are now, we hobble and struggle under the knowledge that we are wounded. We are burdened by fears that others will see the extent of our selfish and broken selves and head for the hills, and we wonder if anyone would still love us if they really knew us through and through. So we hide our injuries and walk on, feeling the pain of our proud selves smart with each step. But when will we understand that while our shoulders are not enough to bear our burdens, Another’s shoulders have already gone on ahead of us and borne much greater loads?

All the while God is striving for us to look up from our lonely plodding-along and see that He offers His strength for our weariness. Are we afraid of being exposed by His gaze, feeling powerless, letting our own vices settle into His Hands, still clinging to our insecurities even though they are what wounds us? Do we resist giving up control even if it could save our life? It’s like we’re adrift at sea clinging to driftwood that we know will sink sooner or later: will we find the courage to let go of our feeble efforts to rescue ourselves and finally be pulled aboard a boat by strong hands that calm seas?

God says to us, “Look at Me.” And we are so afraid that if we do, our worst fears will be realized and we’ll be faced with judgment, harshness, and condemnation. We’ll have to pay the piper before we can go home where we belong. But the going home is the thing: our great debt has been paid. The door has been left open for us: our arrival is anticipated. If we find the courage to look away from our ragged selves, in God’s gaze we will find mercy, forgiveness, and love that longs to heal and welcome and cherish eternally. We expect a court of judgment: what we find is home.

Friends, we are a broken and fearful people. We are still wounded, and we remember our wounds so often. But God beckons us closer: He promises we have nothing to fear even as He bids us (as Aslan puts it), “Do not dare not to dare.”

Have a grand day, folks, and I send along to you, as ever, my

Love, prayers, JOOOYYY!!! And a HAPPY HAPPY FRIDAY!!! HOODALALLYYY!!

Laura

Happy, Happy Friday: “If You Judge People, You Have No Time to Love Them” (Mother Teresa)

Laura McCarty

Notre Dame Alumna, Class of 2011

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PRELUDIO: All right, people, so this is one of those “YAY WORLD!!” videos that makes you happy that (among other things) you’re not the only one out there who’s a goofy dancer. You just have to live it up ;):

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pwe-pA6TaZk

So anyhoo, HAPPY HAPPY FRIDAY, PEOPLE!!!

HOLA, PEOPLES!!!,

So this week, folks, we’re going to talk about unnecessary warning labels. Seriously, with a lot of these you just have to wonder what the backstory is where all of these friendly suggestions ended up on labels (like not stopping a chainsaw blade with your hand. That’s just got ‘ER’ written all over it, and then you have to explain it to the lady at the ER front desk and then, in addition to trying to stop your artery from bleeding everywhere, you also feel a little silly about the whole thing):

Oh, humanity. Never a dull moment ;) but seriously, people, I guess companies go the ‘better safe than sorry’ route, but the end result of that is that they print instructions on how to open up a package of airplane peanuts (AND what to do with them once you’ve opened the package which would be…eat them, probably). And well, people, even though I didn’t see the Disney ‘D’ as a ‘D’ until I was thirteen, darn it if American warning labels should give all of us a little more credit (and not blame us for all of the ways that people have tested products to see if they’re flammable, edible, able to be launched off of a roof, able to be used as surgical instruments, or actually do what they’re supposed to be doing (like the label on the sleep meds that say it’ll make you sleepy. I think that makes sense, don’t you? ;)) ANYHOO, we can probably keep moving along ;)

THE HEART OF THE EMAIL: Or, “If You Judge People, You Have No Time to Love Them” (Mother Teresa)

Youtube clip of the week (thanks for the friend who sent me this gem J):

In “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”, Tibby (a teenaged girl) says to her friend Bailey, “I make judgments about people.” And Bailey replies, “But you change your mind.”

Most of us have a pretty definite idea of who we are, what we care about, and what we believe. And we go through life with friends who are typically pretty similar to us (with enough differences to keep life interesting). But what do we do when we meet people who (at least on the surface) are different from us, and we not only have to meet them but find ways to understand them and let ourselves be understood?

Well, now that you mention it, the first thing to realize is that a lot of us(myself included) are toting around ‘checklists’ in our mind, evaluating other people on the likelihood they have of forming an understanding with us. But isn’t it more important to give them space to be bigger than that? Can we make an effort to dismiss no one and treat each person as the son or daughter of God that they are?

There’s no denying that we have differences in interests, personalities, and life philosophies. But think about how much of this applies to every single person we’ll ever meet:

“I want to be better than I am now, but it’s such a struggle to fight my flaws and I hate when I fall short. I want to take care of others, but asking for help is so hard for me. I don’t like to admit that I’m afraid of others’ judgment, of losing what I love, and of my life ahead that is such a mystery. I want to be known and loved, I want to be recognized as someone who matters, I want to trust that God is there and that He loves me endlessly, I want to teach other people what I’ve learned about life, and I want to do something in my life that actually has meaning. In other words, I’m a human being.”

If we look at what separates us, how will we ever remember that we are more alike than we realize? How will we learn that people are more than their interests, their passions, and their personalities? How can we be taught by someone who we think has nothing to offer us? How can we love if we judge and never move beyond our initial categorizing? It’s so easy for a few differences to be sufficient for us to pass someone by when really we have just passed over a person that, even in a lifetime of knowing them, would still have places in their heart known only to God and (maybe) to themselves.

It would be like this: pretend you’re sailing past an island, and even though you feel like it’s such a small-looking island that you’ll know your way around within the week, you decide to land anyway. And then once you move into the forests, you realize that there are waterfalls, there are flowers, there are rocks that sometimes hurt your feet, and there’s LIFE. And before you know it, you’ve realized that there is no end to this land, for we can spend a lifetime traveling its roads and never come to the end of discovering the country we’ve found. It’s so much bigger and complex and wondrous than we ever thought possible.

Welcome to the human race. Checklists will get you nowhere fast: they’ll only put up fences. It’s not the duty of others to fit neatly into your worldview for their goal is the same as yours: to find who God is calling them to be and strive to be that perfectly. We are all human, and all of the books and stories and history of the world has not begun to capture how richly God has designed His sons and daughters to be and to become. Thomas Merton describes it much better than I can, so here he is J:

“Yesterday, in Louisville, at the corner of 4th and Walnut, (I) suddenly realized that I loved all the people and that none of them were, or, could be totally alien to me. As if waking from a dream — the dream of separateness, of the “special” vocation to be different. My vocation does not really make me different from the rest of men or put me in a special category except artificially, juridically. I am still a member of the human race — and what more glorious destiny is there for man, since the Word was made flesh and became, too, a member of the Human Race!

Thank God! Thank God! I am only another member of the human race, like all the rest of them. I have the immense joy of being a man! As if the sorrows of our condition could really matter, once we begin to realize who and what we are — as if we could ever begin to realize it on earth. I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

Friends, we are members of the human race, and God has made us long to be understood, cherished, and loved by Himself. And He has given us the task of loving and understanding one another, and in doing so becoming lovable by His grace. And as the saying goes, there’s no time like the present ;)

I send along to you, as ever, my

Love, prayers, JOOOYYY!!! And a HAPPY HAPPY FRIDAY!!! HOODALALLYY!!!

Laura

Happy, Happy Friday: When God Ran (April 13, 2012)

Laura McCarty

Notre Dame Alumna, Class of 2011

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PRELUDIO: OK, people: so this is PROOF that whatever random interest or hobby you have (whether it be dancing to Yiddish folk music, collecting antique yo-yos or knitting long underwear) somewhere out there there’s someone like YOU (and thanks to the friend who introduced me to the coolness of Trace Bundy ;)):

I don’t really know how sound is coming out of those guitars since they’re just playing the strings, but hey, there’s plenty of things I don’t understand (like how the electric slide was invented or how every school-child raised in the 90’s knows the SAME jump-rope songs even when they grew up in different U.S. states)  and that’s okay. It’s a good thing for the world to have a few mysteries left, right? Anyhoo, HAPPY HAPPY FRIDAY, PEOPLE!!!

HOLA, PEOPLES!!!,

So chances are that most people on this email have heard Pachelbel’s Canon at least 18 times in their life already: it’s kind of like the ‘classy music’ go-to, I guess, with weddings and fancy hotel lobbies and the occasional car commercial. It’s like, you could advertise it like you advertise for Bowflex machines:

-NEED SOMETHING TO ‘CLASSY-IZE’ YOUR GATHERING/ADVERTISEMENT FOR THAT THING THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH CLASSICAL MUSIC? NEED TO CONNECT WITH AN AUDIENCE THAT WANTS TO FEEL CLASSY BUT DOESN’T KNOW ANY CLASSICAL MUSIC EXCEPT FOR THAT ONE CREEPY ORGAN PIECE THAT’S ALWAYS PLAYED AROUND HALLOWEEN? SEARCH NO LONGER!! PACHELBEL IS FOR YOU!!

(actually, that format could work well for other things, in a more abbreviated form otherwise you people will be reading this email till you’re as old as Moses):

-NEED TO REDEEM A MEANDERING STORY WITHOUT A CLEAR CONCLUSION? TRY ‘AND THEN I FOUND FIVE DOLLARS.’

-NEED TO FIND OUT WHERE CARMEN SANDIAGO OR WALDO IS? TRY ASKING CHUCK NORRIS.

-NEED TO FIND A HOBBY THAT’S UNIQUE ENOUGH TO WRITE ABOUT FOR A COLLEGE ADMISSIONS ESSAY? TRY UNICYCLE JOUSTING.

-NEED TO FIND A PET NAME THAT WILL STUMP THE PEOPLE AT THE VET? TRY A NAME COMPRISED ENTIRELY OF CONSONANTS, LIKE ‘YRMSGSTFF’.

Anyhoo, folks, we can keep moving along ;)

THE HEART OF THE EMAIL: Or, When God Ran

Youtube clip of the week:

OK, folks: so a few years back, I and a bunch of other college kids were preparing to travel out to Washington D.C. where we’d spend some time with adults who had a range of disabilities. Before we left campus we learned about ‘person-first’ language, where we didn’t talk about disabled or handicapped people: instead, we said ‘people with disabilities’.

If this sounds like nitpicking over language technicalities, wait a second. First of all, how else would we get anything important done in the English language if we weren’t choosy with our words? We don’t say ‘cancerous people’, we say ‘people with cancer.’ It’s said that way so that the adjective doesn’t define the noun, so to speak: it’s only a part of the whole. The person’s identity transcends their disability or their cancer or whatever other example you can imagine. We can’t give the adjective more room to define us than it deserves.

Well, couldn’t we see our weaknesses and shortcomings in a similar light? A friend of mine once pointed out how often we say we are ‘proud people’ or ‘jealous people’ or even ‘failures’, as if that one part of ourselves was so important that it deserved to be out there in front of the nouns and decide our whole identity (as if we were jealous all day long rather than jealous in certain situations). Is any part of our brokenness so important in the long run that we can use it to define ourselves? Maybe if we were lost causes of some sort, or if that weakness had completely won its victory over us. But friends, it HASN’T. We aren’t beaten because God isn’t beaten!! If we feel like we’ve given up on ourselves, God has not given up on us. He looks at us and sees more than our wounds and weaknesses. He doesn’t overlook our flaws, but He hates the sin, loves the sinner, and strives for the sinner’s freedom. The reason He wants the sin gone is because He longs for the sinner to be whole.

If we look at ourselves as failures rather than as people who sometimes fail, then we are not seeing ourselves as God sees us. Like the doctor who’s working for our cure, He does not dismiss us as people consumed and defined by our brokenness and our ‘spiritual cancers’: He sees the places in us that fall short of perfection, but always He sees US. He doesn’t miss the forest for the trees, even the trees that do not yet bear fruit as they shall someday (God willing.)

Friends, we sometimes dismiss ourselves as failures or as lost causes, but God does not dismiss us in that way or any way. He sees us as a people with an illness that, if not cared for constantly, will develop into something worse. But even in the worst cases of that illness, He does not give up: He is tireless in His efforts to cure us, until our last breath. If God Himself does not dismiss you, try not to be harder on yourself than He is on you. We cannot forgive less easily than He forgives, because though He demands perfection, He desires mercy at the slightest repentance on our part. We take one halting step at a time even as He runs to gather us into our true Home forever. We tear ourselves apart with despair over our sins even as He calls for us to stop and not further the damage that sin has already wrought within us. Our God, infinite and awe-inspiring and mysterious though He be, does not hesitate to stoop down to reach us, telling us with His love that not all hope is lost.

Friends, I hope that we can all be free from the temptation to define ourselves by our brokenness: though it is a burden of our present life, in God we trust that our illness will someday be healed and that for the first time EVER, we will know what it is to be fully cured. He does not give up on us, even when we give up on ourselves. He loves us that much.

And I hope your Fridays are so blessed, folks :), and I send along to each a yall my

Love, prayers, JOOOYYY!!! And a HAPPY HAPPY FRIDAY!!! HOODALALLYYY!!!!

Laura

Approaching the Throne of Grace: Triduum Retreat (Part II)

Miriam Marston

Assistant Director of Theology Programs, Theological Institute for the New Evangelization

St. John’s Seminary, Boston, MA

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I began wrapping up this series with my last post, which introduced a proposal for a confession-themed retreat taking place over the course of the Triduum.  I continue here with Good Friday:

The day begins with a simple breakfast followed by a talk.  It would be ideal to have a priest describe and explain his role and experience in the ministry of facilitating the sacrament of confession.  Since a key part of the program is to rekindle a sense of sacramental consciousness among adults, the priest might discuss, in more general terms, how the priesthood and the sacramental life of the Church are connected.  In addition to dispelling some of the misconceptions surrounding the sacrament, he may want to address the following:

  • What does it mean to serve as an agent by which the mercy and forgiveness of Christ are mediated?
  • How has he seen lives transformed by the sacrament, and how has it helped to build up the community (i.e. a parish or student group) as a whole?
  • What does the middle road look like, between an overly-casual or dismissive attitude toward the sacrament and an unhealthy scrupulosity?

After the talk (and any follow-up questions), the larger group should be broken down into smaller groups, of three to five people.  Each group should be given at least two or three Old Testament passages to reflect on[1].  The aim of this group exercise is to begin to consider the sacrament of confession in light of the Word of God.  For instance:

  • What themes of forgiveness and reconciliation do you find in these selected passages?
  • What types of images of God do these texts put forward?
  • How do these images correspond with any existing conceptions you may have of God?
  • How might these images impact how you understand the sacrament of confession?

If they are at ease with sharing, they might find it helpful to discuss as a group their current rapport with the sacrament, and how they see it operating (or perhaps not operating) in their spiritual life.  They might take a moment to articulate what their hope for the retreat is.  After this group discussion, all retreatants are invited to gather for a brief lunch.

After the meal, the small groups should re-convene to reflect on passages from the New Testament.  The following questions might be used:

  • What do these passages say about forgiveness and reconciliation?  How does the person of Christ figure into these two themes?
  • What do they have to say about hope and conversion?
  • How might these passages inspire a movement from a magical interpretation of grace to a real and substantial connection with God?

After the small group discussion, there should be time allowed for a large group reflection on the different selected passages.  Volunteers from each group could summarize and share the insights of their small group, so that a kind of collage of understanding is created, with the hope that it helps draw people into some new kind of relationship with the Word of God.

In keeping with the spirit of Good Friday, the retreatants are invited to participate in the Stations of the Cross.  The meditations for each station should emphasize themes of reconciliation and relationship.  At the conclusion of the stations, the retreatants would be encouraged to take some quiet time to journal or just be still for a while, to reflect on the significance of Good Friday, and how it connects, if at all, to their experience of the retreat so far.  There will then be time for socializing, to be followed by dinner (soup is a popular choice for Good Friday).

The last activity of the evening will be a personal testimony (given by a man for the men’s group, and by a woman for the women’s group).  This talk would not be merely a matter of presenting a “before and after” scenario, since each person is a work in progress, but rather how the celebration of the sacrament has helped (and continues to help) in their personal and spiritual growth.  Has confession tangibly changed their relationship with God?  With the Church?  With friends and family?  They might reflect on the biggest stumbling blocks they faced (as the chances are fairly high that their concerns or reservations will resonate with at least a few in the group).  They might also describe any events and/or encounters which inspired them to consider the sacrament in a new or different light.  Retreatants should feel free to ask any questions they may have after the talk.

Holy Saturday:

The morning’s activity is intended to help begin to synthesize the experience of the retreat so far (such as the discussion on Scripture, the priest’s talk, the Stations of the Cross and the personal reflection).   After finding a quiet space, the retreatants will be invited to write two sets of letters – not intended necessarily to be sent to the addressee, but rather to a) refine the art of contrition and b) begin to articulate a commitment to turn from old ways to new.  The idea is to have the men and women take an honest look at their relationships, and to start articulating how they can be better siblings, spouses, friends, parents, colleagues, etc.  They should be encouraged to address letters to less familiar people, too (such as neighbors, passengers on the train, the janitor on the fourth floor, etc) – how have certain actions (or non-action) done violence to all of these human bonds?  The second letter is addressed to their own self, and aimed at identifying specific areas in their life that require attention, discipline, and grace.  They should be asked to consider how the rituals, sacraments, and ministers of the Church might assist them in their resolutions to press onwards to new ways of living.  Again, this exercise is not meant to generate an unwholesome amount of guilt; rather, it is a matter of sincerely looking inwards and attaching words to feelings of sorrow and wounded-ness.  It is a bit like pausing to look at yourself in the mirror before you wipe it clean with the Windex.

Free time and lunch will follow this activity, and a penance service will be held in the early afternoon. The rest of the afternoon and early evening will be set aside for social time and/or personal quiet time, recreation, and then dinner.  The retreat culminates in the celebration of the Easter Vigil Mass.  As is normally done during the vigil, the liturgy should begin in darkness and with a candlelight procession; in this instance, further symbolizing the personal exodus from slavery to sin and death to new life in a restored relationship with Christ.  The Vigil Mass should be followed by plenty of social time and ample provisions of the edible and drinkable variety.

On Easter Sunday, the group should come together for a final blessing and any closing thoughts and prayers, before leaving and going back into the world, hopefully with a renewed sense of relationship with Christ and with perhaps a little less luggage than when they arrived.