The Home Stretch

Fr. Tony Cecil
Thursday, June 29, 2023

This week's post was originally published by Fr. Anthony Cecil, of the Archdiocese of Louisville, who completed a college internship with Saint Meinrad's "One Bread, One Cup" program as a college seminarian in 2013. Fr. Tony originally posted this on his blog, "Be Not Afraid: My Journey through Seminary".

At the beginning of the summer, I planned on posting often about what was going on at my summer job.

...Yeah, that didn't happen.

But, now I'm in the final leg of my journey here, and I figured it was worth it to take some time and reflect on everything that I have experienced.

A little over six weeks ago, 20 college students from nine different states, representing 13 different colleges and universities, gathered on a hill in the middle of nowhere. They had been chosen from among many to call - of all places - a monastery their summer home.

Although they were all different, and didn't really know that much about one another, they all had two things in common. First and foremost, they shared a passion. This passion was for many things - for Christ, for His Church, and in a very special way, for the worship of God through the liturgy.

The other thing they shared was a love. This love was for a particular group of people who are so often forgotten. The youth of the Church. They all believed that the youth weren't just the future of the Church, but the Church now - a key part of the Body of Christ. They all had a burning desire to share the passion they all had with these young people, in hopes that they, too, may come to a deeper love of Christ and His Church.

As far as the community bonding - well, that didn't take long. They clicked. They understood one another, and they understood what their mission was. Then it came time for formation.

When they weren't praying, playing outside, or making an occasional run to the Wal-Mart or the Dairy Barn, they were in the classroom, learning the skills they would need to share their passion for the Church with the youth that would climb this hill. They learned Theological Reflection, Liturgy, Pastoral Care, Boundaries, Benedictine Values, among other things. 

Then, the time finally came. The youth arrived for the first conference, and the work began at full force. They arrived the first day, and it was awkward. They nailed singing for the first Mass, but they still weren't a community, that is until Steve Angrisano worked his magic.

Over the course of five days, amazing things happened. They learned how they encountered the Word of God in their lives. They learned how an ancient form of monastic prayer is still relevant to them today. They learned why the Church has sacraments - what they are, what they do, and why they're important.

They not only learned about, but experienced the forgiveness of God in the Sacrament of Penance. They learned that the Church is not only about Word and Sacrament, but by virtue of our Baptism, by our identity as a follower of Christ, they share in the Mission of the Church.

Then, day five came, and they learned that it's up to them to live the promise. Amongst all of that, they learned how to take active roles in the different liturgies of the Church. They were formed into lectors, servers, preachers for the Liturgy of the Hours, artists, extraordinary ministers, instrumentalists, cantors - the list goes on and on.

And finally, at the end of every day, they had the opportunity to form a smaller community, one in which they could reflect on where they saw God working in their lives, what they were learning, and how they can take what they've learned and put it into action.

Sounds beautiful, right? It really was. And the best part was this - we got to do it two more times!

Over the course of these six weeks, we have formed a close-knit community of faith. Thanks to that community, the almost 300 people who climbed this hill this summer to take part in this program experienced something amazing. When they left, they were different from when they came. We don't know if the seeds we planted will bear fruit, but I personally believe that they will, because I've both heard about it and have seen it myself.

Now, however, the time has come for this community. Six weeks have gone by quickly, and soon, we will leave this holy place that we've called home. We will go our separate ways. Yes, it is sad, but it needs to happen.

Someone pointed this out to me - in Scripture, it says that unless a grain of wheat falls and dies, it remains only a grain of wheat. No fruit can come from it. If we stay on this hill in this community forever, we can't share the gifts that we've learned we have, and the talents that we've developed.

We, too, have learned so much about the Word and Sacraments of the Church, and we, too, have a Mission. Our mission is to let the light we have received shine so brightly in our lives that all around us may see. Our mission is to be Christ to everyone we meet, and seek out Christ in them, and our mission is to keep the passion we have alive and well, so that others may come to know Christ through us.

Although soon we will go back to our nine different states and 13 different colleges, we don't have to say goodbye. We believe that we will always be together. We know that each and every time we gather around the table of the Lord - each and every time we receive His Body and Blood in the Eucharist -we are one body and one spirit in Him.

And the best part is that nothing - no state lines, no career paths - absolutely nothing can change that. That's the beauty of our faith, and that's the beauty of this community. 

Living at Saint Meinrad and being an intern for the "One Bread, One Cup" program has truly been one of the highest honors of my life. I feel blessed to have even been chosen for my first internship, and even more blessed to have been asked to come back.

I believe that this program truly is a gift to not only the Church, but to the world - because it changes people. It helps people realize that although it may be difficult, seeking God in a world full of so many distractions is, in fact, possible.

It teaches people that no matter what we've done, no matter how unforgiveable we think we are, God is always there, waiting to forgive, and waiting to love. It teaches people that our worship of God in the context of the liturgy isn't just some ancient practice, but it's something that's living, and it's something that we must do our best to be active in, and spread our love of it to others.

And at least in my opinion, most especially, it teaches the youth that they matter. It teaches them that they are worth more than a dumbed-down version of their faith. It teaches them how important they are and what a difference they can make in their community, in the Church, and in the world - all flowing from their love of Christ.

I'm sad to leave, but I feel like I've made my mark, and it's time for someone else to come along and make theirs. I am confident that the youth I have worked with are going to do remarkable things, but it's up to us to stop doubting them and let them do it. It's up to us to let go of our own wants, our own desires, our own plans, and most especially our own opinions, and step back and let God do His work, that in all things, He may be glorified. Amen.