Once all my own child care was planned, a well-choreographed ballet, I was on my way to what proved to be time spent in the presence of 27 Amazing Teens!
The location for the retreat was our local Catholic High School's "Grand Dining Hall" (that'd be what you and I used to call the lunchroom). There was a wonderful mix of students. Most all of them, I would guess, made good grades. Some were outgoing. Others weren't. Some were the athletic type. Others weren't. Some were popular. Others weren't. Most knew each other. A few kids knew no one. Throughout the presentation part of the retreat, although I was in the same room, I hung back, since I had also been asked to orchestrate the meals. I stayed busy making sure that the food areas were clean, planning for the next "food drop", and organizing so that that everything was effortlessly streamline during mealtime. But make no mistake, I was able to watch these very special kids interact.
What I saw happen was purely and simply the Holy Spirit at work.
These kids spiritually embraced each other, they opened their hearts and shared with each other. During down times, they didn't just stay in their "cliques", they moved about and played games with each other: a badminton court was made by stringing a net between two chairs which were set upon tables, a football and a volleyball were each thrown around, and the beanbag toss was popular, too. Many balls were thrown, but not one single insulting word. After dinner they had an impromptu talent show. They cheered one another on, each "act" received a standing ovation. The camaraderie was a joy to watch.
3 hours of sleep and back at it.
After a full morning of taking part in dialogues, they reach the last activity of the retreat: Witnessing. It was an amazing, emotional, and intimate time where the kids, any who felt led to, shared how God was alive and at work in them. The Retreat Leader suggested ways that they add details to their stories to go out and be an even more powerful witness and Christian Leader throughout their lives. And then, the Closing Mass.
Origin of the word Mass - from the Latin missa (also spelled messa): to send; to commission.
Anyone who knows me also knows that I have a bad case of "Watery Eyeballs!" Why, even just typing the words "watery" and "eyeballs" makes me well up with tears. At the close of the ending Mass, each child came up individually and, along with the priest, all 5 of us adult leaders laid our hands upon the teen's head/shoulders and prayed for blessings over him or her.
Uh oh, here it comes.
Throughout these 30 hours together, I have taken notice of the way Christ's Light is shone by each of these awesome young adults. During Mass, I offered prayers of thanksgiving for the way each of these kids serve as the hands and face of Christ. Then we get to the Laying on of Hands. Well, let's just say this is where the
rubber hit the road ...nose hit the kleenex! I thought I had it all handled just wiping the few tears away after we prayed over the first couple of kids. And then I remembered their witness, and the way they interacted with each other, and what a powerful impact they were each going to make on the world. "Lord help them keep their lights shining." I prayed. "Their beautiful light. Each so unique. Each so eager. Each so joyful."
The Ugly Cry.
"Oh Lord, this isn't about me. Oh. Dear. God." I begged for help getting control over my emotions. "If they didn't already know it before, I have just sealed these kids in the knowledge that I am the world's biggest goober-head." I know my face was red because it was on fire. If only the steady stream of tears could put out the flame. "Thank you Jesus that no one is pointing and laughing.... I guess? Course, who can see through these blurry eyes."
Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Mush!
And then, do you know what those amazingly powerful, incredibly awesome, beautifully unique kids spontaneously suggested after the last wonderful kid received their blessing? They asked if they could lay their hands on each of the six of us. Yelp. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
There may have been only 27 kids praying over me, but the blessings I received from this retreat were countless.