The last two months have been some of the most radical months of my life. On June 18, I departed with a group of young men for the Faith of Our Fathers bus tour, came home on the 20th and started preparing to leave the country on a mission trip to Peru that the group left on the 23rd for. Returning on July 3rd and resting for four days before heading to the vocations camp in Big Lake on the 9th. Coming home on the 11th, I had to do laundry quick because I got to depart as a chaperone for the Steubenville conference the next day. We came home from the Steubenville Conference on July 16th. A literal month of ministry, mission and travel. As I returned home, everything is different. Not so much physically different but spiritually different. I had spent the last month leading others to Christ, growing closer to Christ myself and expanding every part of my spiritual life. I think the most important lesson I learned through it all is ‘surrender.’
I have always prayed for a spirit of surrender and wanted to lay my life before Christ, but always shrank back when the time for action came forward. This summer set me up so that I couldn’t shrink away from the action Christ has called myself and all of us to do, that is grow into a deep, and intimate relationship with Him. The vocations bus tour and camp were great reminders that we are all pilgrims and that people have traveled before us and that we are always working toward Christ. Getting to tour the Diocese and hear the history of Father Pierz coming over and running throughout the area and sending letters back to the immigrant farms about the rich soil and to the Benedictines asking for help in ministry, and also getting to hear the vocation stories of many of the priests, helped put into perspective for the youngsters and a reminder for myself that the faith can be hard and confusing but is fully possible to live out when we surrender to the will of God and allow His grace to work in us.
I think the biggest lesson in surrender came to me while on a mission trip to Peru. It’s cliché to say, but the trip was truly life changing. The idea of being in control and knowing what was happening went right out the window. It was a true let go and let God moment. As the trip went on, we found really quick that we weren’t in control by any means and that God was guiding our hands, and feet. At times letting God lead was hard. The work site I was at we had a small group making an outhouse for the family so they’d have a semi-private place to use as a restroom. But, by the third day I was really starting to feel the physical labor of trying to dig through the clay. I made a comment about it early in the morning as I drank a cup of coffee with Ben, the full time missionary who was our leader. He later shared the scripture passage Matthew 14:16-21. It’s the story of the feeding of the five thousand. He related us to the disciples. We had a huge task that Christ wants us to do. For us it was the mission, the disciples it was feeding five thousand people. We bring what we have to Chris, whether it’s five loaves and two fish or a tired and battered body. Whatever Christ wanted to do with that offering, He would work through it. It was a literal surrender of my physical body.
Now trips like that can be boiled down to amazing experience but it was more than that. We encounter Christ in the sufferings of poor Peruvians that I could never communicate with. We couldn’t come back and say it was an experience. We came back with an encounter. It changed the way we live. This change for a lot of us was planted in Peru but shortly after we embarked for the Steubenville Conference. It was here that the seeds from Peru took route and sprout many fruits, not only in those who went to Peru but for all of the youth on this trip. It was here that many encountered the person of Christ through the most holy Eucharist. Through Community, Confession, talks, Mass, Adoration, the youngster were set on fire for the youth and for many of them they learned that following Christ was a path of surrender. This being one of my first times being a leader on a conference like this, I wanted nothing more than the students to encounter the Man who completely transformed my life and transform theirs. As the students learned to surrender to Christ, I learned to surrender my own desire of encountering Christ in a deep way. As people enter into moments like this they pray for this grand encounter of being slain in the Spirit or speaking in tongues or the gift of tears. Those desires were in my heart but during that Saturday night adoration the only prayer that came to me was, “You’ve shown me your love, show it to them.” My goodness, Christ came out swinging, and by Him answering my prayer He ultimately revealed His love for all of us more.
This summer is not one I’m gonna forget. It changed me. I learned what it meant to surrender myself to His will, and learned to trust into that both physically and spiritually. The summer has set into motion an army of young people on fire, ready to surrender to the divine and perfect will of Christ our Savior.