You may have seen some of The B.C. Catholic’s coverage of Rise Up a few weeks ago. If not, Rise Up is a Catholic conference that takes place over New Year’s in a different province each year. It always amazes me that more than 700 young adults, many of them no longer even practising the faith, will fly to a distant province and pay to attend a Catholic conference. God works mysteriously.
This year, Rise Up took place in Vancouver. My husband Scott, who works for the Catholic Christian Outreach university student movement, has been working off-campus for the past few years while he finishes some schooling. As a result, we aren’t a part of the university scene much anymore.
While we don’t attend or participate in many events, I was looking forward to getting in on some of the action this New Year’s. Scott was giving an apologetics workshop, so I tagged along, hoping to bring the kids to something.
Father Bryan Duggan was leading the session called “A Life Changed,” in which the students are invited to know God as a loving Father and to commit their lives to Christ. There is Eucharistic adoration and confession immediately afterwards.
Father Bryan is a friend, and the topic was great, so Scott and I packed up the kids, runny noses and all, and headed downtown.
I’m guessing the experience is a bit overwhelming for little ones. Hundreds of people are on their knees before Our Lord in the monstrance, and lining up around the perimeter of the room to confess their sins. I can’t really express it in words, but it’s a moment of grace.
I have often talked with Scott about how amazing it is to hear some of the students share their testimonies. Over the years, I have noticed a theme: no matter how many faith studies the students have attended, or conferences or praise nights, it’s almost always stated that their hearts turned to God at an evening of Eucharistic Adoration. So, no doubt, Christ’s presence on the altar had something to do with the hours of confessions that took place that night.
After the event, staff members will share moments that are memorable for them, some special conversation or speaker. The moment that stands out for me is vivid in my mind.
At the end of Father Bryan’s talk, the students were still sitting or kneeling. Suddenly, in a singular moment, man after man began to stand. They were scattered throughout the conference room, but in unison they all silently made their way to the back of the darkened room.
Silently they pulled on their white vestments, tied their cinctures, wrapped their confessional stoles around their shoulders and got to business.
One moment they were sitting amongst the crowd, one of many, and the next they were men set apart.
I looked at them and saw that they truly were no longer one of us; they had put on the stole of Christ.
I sensed a certain “aloneness” in them, the way that Christ was alone even when he was with others. They had a mystical calling that was beyond me and I felt their minds turning out and away from the noise of the room and ordinary actions of the secular world.
Does that sound too romantic? For me it was a perfectly and truly romantic moment. If I were a painter, I would try to capture the image of the one priest I watched standing nearby.
How often priests are expected to be cool, or even just ordinary. There is a good and right focus on the laity’s call to holiness, but sometimes the priesthood is pitted against that, as though acknowledging the higher calling of a religious vocation is some kind of prideful clericalism.
Well, it does not threaten me or make me feel less than precious in God’s sight to say outright that the gift of the ordained priesthood is something I cannot truly understand or ever be a part of. I am not threatened by the beauty of an all-male action, set apart from my vocation, but leading me to Christ.
I am grateful for it, and in awe when I see their work done in such a dignified way. The seemingly simple action of a priest vesting before confession was a prayer that I wasn’t a part of, but was gifted to witness and receive the fruits of.
As the wife of a CCO staff member, I want to thank the priests of our archdiocese for being there to lead these young adults and my own children into a “Life Changed.”