Saturday, August 24, 2013

Welcome back Retreat: Katelyn's Story

As some of you might know, we took our student missionaries on a little retreat to Hankinson, ND in lieu of our usual back-to-school "Evangelization Workshop" that we organize each year. I'll be honest, I was a bit leery at first simply because all the students that came were the guinea pigs and we just hoped they'd like it.
FRC preaching on the Queenship of Mary

The retreat was absolutely incredible. Unfortunately, less than 50 of the 82 student missionaries showed up, but I know the ones that did received exactly what they needed from the Lord. Coincidence? Or just a theme in my life lately? Hmmm.

The retreat was only 24 hours, but we packed quite a bit in and the retreat center we stayed at was just perfect. It was part of a convent but we hardly interacted with the sisters at all. There were towels and pillows coming out of our ears, along with anything else we might've needed. I literally had to pinch myself because there was religious art on the walls, crucifixes in each room and clean beds in rooms of 1, 2 and 4. Now that certainly was a change from the albergues of EspaƱa! And a delightful one at that. I happily received the hospitality and ate whatever was set before me, mostly just because the food was delicious and apparently made by people who are professional pizza makers. That explains the crust on Thursday night's pizza..... mmmm.

On Friday as we were in line for lunch, one of the "front line" student missionaries turns to me and just starts telling me how much this retreat meant to her and how the Lord worked in her heart. I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting reactions like this to come from such a short retreat, but praise God that He uses anything! Here's a beautifully-written story from Katelyn:
Before I went on this retreat, I had never been to a convent before. Now I had read about Abbeys in fiction and loved every single bit of them, however, when it came to convents, I was terrified. My imagination led me to believe that a convent was a gauntlet of constantly judging eyes, a place of metaphorical chains, and a building where repression was the only teaching. My sister had told me that she loved her first visit, but I figured whatever, she’s my sister, the girl who had shown previous interest in the idea of nuns before. However, when I first stepped into the retreat center, instead of a cot to spend my night on, I found a carefully made bed, with a set of towels and some soap beside them. It sounds much less impressive to read, but the entire room of St. Catherine, the room in which I stayed, just oozed with love and excitement for the impending guests. And following a wonderful talk by TJ, I decided to spend some free time walking outside.
It is amazing how much peace can be found just by exiting those doors and walking amidst the most beautiful array of flowers. My little group was then greeted by a Sister we had all met before, and the contentment and joy that was so evident on her face just made me reconsider my little image I had conjured up in my head. Later that evening, we had the opportunity to go to confession during our hour of Adoration and, if we wanted, a pair of the FOCUS missionaries would pray over us. Now, I had some issues that were weighing quite heavily on my mind. I had a lot of questions, doubts, and nervousness where my personal relationships were concerned, and I figured, hey, why not get a chance to talk to a priest while I can and ask for help? Who better to ask?
I am currently dating someone and up until about a week or two before the retreat, I had had a few nagging thoughts that I had been choosing to overlook, until one day my sister, mother, father, and a friend I have come to think of as a brother, mentioned their worries to me. They were afraid I would fall head over heels, or thought that I may be meant for someone else. They warned me to just be cautious and enjoy the relationship, but since that day I had been feeling insanely uneasy and filled with the greatest sense of fear, indecision, doubt, and, being honest, a little unhappiness. I just wasn’t sure if this man was the one God had intended me to meet at this point in my life or whether I had strayed from my path with God onto one of my own designing.
I decided confession would be a good decision. Couldn’t hurt, right? I waited in line for what seemed like an eternity, this question in my mind. I didn’t know how to approach it. But it was eventually my turn. The priest finally gave me answers I had been looking for. He told me to evaluate my decisions, make sure I was motivated by God, that no matter what happens, I would always be a better person because of it, and that, ironically enough, worry is a healthy reminder that God is there. He told me that the constant questions in my head about this relationship were good, as it meant that I was always trying to make sure that my intentions were pure and God-serving, and that boundless affirmation was the Devil’s work. He also told me to talk with that Brother-figure about my young courtier, as I needed to hear more from him on his opinions, a job that I had been dreading. A few minutes before he wrapped up, I went on a complete roller-coaster, terror, tears, and then this laughter. I was just so relieved! I left that room feeling, honestly, about ten pounds lighter. I seriously felt like a great weight was lifted from me. Holy God!
I thought I might as well go see the spiritual director, so I went back into the church to put away my book and I started to approach TJ and Kelsey, who were praying by the bookshelf, but the next thing I know they both get up, smiling, and, maybe awkwardness compelled me, or maybe it was their excitement with my curiosity, but I said, “I was just coming to put my book back, but hey, why not.” I told them that I wanted prayers for clarity in personal relationships and asked for a little more assistance in discerning my vocation. This was my first time having people pray over me. At first, I have to say I was a bit freaked out, but, as the prayer went on I heard some things I apparently really needed to have said and there was just this feeling of rightness and surrender that entered me. Surrender and strength. It was odd. But, somehow, when it was all over, I just knew everything would work out. I then hugged TJ and Kelsey and went to the Spiritual director who didn’t do quite what I thought she would, but instead talked about relationships again. By this point, I was just like, “Okay Lord, I got it. Relationships are the theme tonight.” I left that room with a feeling of purpose. My night had me get emptied, then humbled, and then filled with both a joy and a purpose.
Earlier Kelsey had talked about the Devil of Silence, and how we must increase the Holy Spirit within us, while letting our own selves decrease. I felt it was time to give it a try, it was a delightful turn of events when that Brother figure was sitting nearby with no agenda, and, though utterly terrified, I finally had the talk that I had been dreading so much, I asked for his opinion on my boyfriend. That conversation made me so happy, it turns out there were a few things he didn’t know that changed his mind, and a few impressions that hit me, that deepened my appreciation for my brother-figure, and let me affirm that I truly do love the man that is my boyfriend, not only for his talents and personality, but for his flaws as well. It was actually kind of exciting.
Later that evening, after a couple games of Capture-the-Flag, I decided to text my boyfriend about the conversation I had had with the priest, after all, the decisions in the relationship shouldn’t just be left to me and the priest. My guy was baptized Catholic, confirmed protestant and grew to have an apathy and distrust, bordering on dislike for the Church after a favorite priest of his, got removed from his parish. But when I told him that I wanted us to make sure that both of our sides of the relationship were based on love, of God and each other, and not just a want for something else, he agreed. He told me that those were good words and that he honestly believed the same. I was so happy! I had told myself that this would lead to an argument but the conversation, and his stance on the news I had just asked him to digest, just made me love him more and praise God for the most rewarding and emotionally unloading day. This retreat scared me so much, but it ended up giving me all the answers to questions that had plagued me for the last couple weeks, this year is going to be my block of marble, (Thanks TJ) and, Kelsey’s talk gave me the resolve to try and listen to the Holy Spirit, and actually talk to people. I kind of went into this summer and retreat lukewarm, but now I want everyone to get the chance to have a couple of days like I was blessed to have and get to know the glory, mercy, and wisdom of God.
 Katelyn Grosz is a sophomore at NDSU studying English education and hospitality and tourism management. 

Girls in my downchain being silly.
The group! Get ready NDSU, here we come.

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