Monday morning I was given the opportunity to join the Kairos (#152) that would be leaving the next afternoon. A combination of factors amongst the adults signed up for the retreat called for some young blood to be added to the roster. Thankfully the coordinator of the retreat, Mike Tracy (campus ministry), got a hold of Arrupe and asked if one of the AVs would like to come. Since I wouldn’t be on Pallbearer duty at all this past week, and since retreats and the theological/spiritual life are sort of my thing, I jumped on the opportunity.
I had the pleasure of being an adult on this retreat for the first time after participating and leading Kairos back in my student days. I’m happy to have been on this retreat with some excellent men of the St. Ignatius community. Amongst them were longtime friends Jerry Skoch (administration) and Hugh McManamon (college counseling). These men graduated from Ignatius only one year apart in the late 70’s, and also went to the same grade school together. It was lovely to see their friendship so strong after 40 years. What was also great to see was their obvious holiness expressed in their talks given to the kids, yes. But they expressed this holiness more often and more importantly in the way they viewed themselves, others, and the Lord in our everyday conversations at meals and around the house. Often I think it is the mark of true saints-in-the-making that, of course, they realize their sinfulness, God’s overwhelming love for them, and then they react to that love. But, even deeper, these people have a lightness of heart and excellent sense of humor and liveliness to go with that awareness and action of holiness. I’m privileged to have experienced such a presence for the past four days at the Jesuit Retreat House.
One of the motivating factors for my jumping on this retreat was the excellent lineup of student leaders. I happened to know five of the eight young men on this retreat fairly well beforehand, those five being involved in service at the school, as well as sports and good academics. Meeting the other three leaders was not a disappointment. All eight of these guys to varying high degrees expressed a strong and vibrant faith in God, a love for their families and friends, and respect for themselves by avoiding unhealthy substances and physical practices. Even moreso did this group express a very close-knit friendship and enthusiasm which was beautiful to see.
It’s edifying to go on these retreats as an adult to see how much crap some of these guys have gone through, which applies for the retreatants as well. Yes, there are the stupid decisions of sex, drugs and alcohol that are brought up, there’s the nervously-discussed topics of the different social “classes” at the school, and there’s the never-spoken-of topics of race and orientation. But what’s really striking is the things many of these young men have had to suffer at the hands of their own families. The statistic that 50% of American marriages end in divorce seemed to be incarnated in that JRH meeting room. And the tears, the wavering voices, the downcast eyes that are the result of them is only more proof that the institution of marriage and the restoration of the family is a moral crusade this generation needs to fight for.
Yet, also, redemption was recalled so often in the leaders’ talks and, to an extent, the students’ reactions (and there’s plenty of room for more redemption to occur, rest assured!). It’s wonderful to see the immediate mushy, fuzzy-feeling reactions of the juniors at the end of the retreat. But, as Fr. Canfield was speaking of during his homily the last day, it’s even more wonderful to see a group of eight young men who took the call of conversion that God made to them on Kairos and lived it out, and continue to live it out a year later (and God willing will continue to much longer). This is my prayer for the juniors who made the retreat this past week. Live it out. Believe the voice of God that spoke to you on this retreat. Trust.
As if all this weren’t enough (and of course there’s much more that I don’t have room to type here), I get to do it all again in five weeks on Kairos 155. I actually signed up for this one, so I’ll get to work with the leaders in the formation process of the retreat. I’ll also get the chance to give a talk of some sort. We’ll see what the plan of attack for that one will be. Prayers for the Kairos 152 guys, and the 155 guys upcoming, are always appreciated.