Sunday, February 25, 2007

Wyoming Youth Retreat 2007

Oh, man. Traffic's hit the floor. I guess that's what I get for not posting for a couple of days.

But I'm back. Wyoming Youth Retreat (formerly Youth 2000, and don't ask me why it's changed) was a blast. This was my second year attending, but last year I was a catechumen. Unable to go to confession or take communion, I was actually kind of surly by the time the retreat was over. But this year, I'm on a high.

The retreat lasted from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon and consisted of daily Mass, daily rosary, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, lots of prayer, and a number of excellent talks from excellent speakers. A Franciscan Friar of the Renewal gave a number of talks and also processed the Sacrament on Saturday night. That priest is a wonderful man, full of wit and wisdom; he could have been a stand-up comedian if he hadn't become a friar and priest. Another priest, originally from France and now, I think, from Illinois, also gave some excellent and very challenging talks. He's also a religious, but I can't remember the name of his order. A priest originally from Zambia and now ministering in Wyoming also came to hear confessions and give one talk. Two nuns also came, and one of them gave a talk as well.

Through most of the weekend, except during Mass and after the Benediction on Sunday, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for adoration. They have a seven-tiered stack of candles they call a "burning bush" on which the monstrance was placed in the middle of the hall where we had the retreat. During worship, prayer, and lectures, priests were on hand at the back to hear confession. The focus of the talks was on challenging young people to lead holy lives in the unencouraging environment of today's culture. Frequent confession and communion were emphasized, as were vocations--religious vocations and vocations to the priesthood were stressed, although godly marriages were discussed as well. One of the talks on Sunday, like last year, was on the Virgin Mary, and we had a crowning ceremony for the Blessed Virgin following the Sunday rosary.

The retreat is geared toward youth, and most of the participants were younger than myself, though there were some college students and older adults in my age group, but I would guess most of the participants were high school students. It was refreshing to be in a room full of enthusiastic high-schoolers clearly sincerely interested in their faith.

It was an excellent time, very inspiring, very challenging. And to keep my happy, we got a way with a number of toys. I sure like my toys. They had blessed rosaries available for the daily rosary, and we were allowed to keep them. They also passed out Miraculous Medals on Sunday, and they gave away the candles off the burning bush, too (I got four). Last year, the medals were much smaller and we had to give the rosaries back; this year, when they said we could keep the rosaries, I exclaimed, "Whoa!" in genuine gladness and surprised. A few people around me laughed and one woman leaned over to me and said, "Don't lose your childlikeness." I could have assured her that I am, unfortunately, in little danger of losing my childishness in the near future.

Readers of this blog may be interested in knowing that I did get into one (amiable) argument this weekend, I won't say with who, about the subject of fiction. This particular person, who I much admire, didn't care for fiction and was discouraging young Catholics from reading it. I briefly and not very adequately suggested an alternate viewpoint. Somehow the discussion ended up on Harry Potter (why do these discussions always end up on Harry Potter?). Anyway, I took what he had to say seriously and mulled it over for a while, but in the end still had to disagree with him. Nonetheless, I would agree that fiction, like anything else, can become an idol or an obsession.

So that in a nutshell is the retreat. I highly recommend a similar experience to all readers, and if you happen to be anywhere near Wyoming when it's time to sign up for this very same retreat next year, I highly recommend it specifically. There were some testimonials, which I won't repeat even without names for privacy's sake, that made it clear this was a powerful experience for a number of participants.

And hopefully I'll have a digital camera soon and be able to give you a few visual accompaniments to these sorts of posts.
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