On being a cheerful servant

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Student: If you could be any food, what food would you be?

Me: Hmm. I’m going to cheat with this one: I would be a cup of coffee.

Student: Why would you be a cup of coffee?

Me: Because it’s warm, inviting, it’s like a hug in a cup, and it wakes you up in the morning.

Student: I like that answer!

From the time that I was in High School, I have had trouble getting out of bed in the morning. So much so, that during my sophomore, junior, and senior years of high school I would arise ten minutes before I had to leave the house. My alarm would go off at 6:15am, I would then repeatedly hit snooze for a half hour, and finally arise at 6:45am. My Mom and I would then leave the house between 6:55 and 7:00am. I was a master at getting ready within ten minutes. I had the routine down to a science. My bags would be packed with my breakfast, lunch, and water bottle (at this time I hadn’t discovered the sweetness that is a cup of coffee). I would roll out of bed, brush my hair, use the bathroom, brush my teeth, and finally change. This became my routine each and every morning.

As I transitioned into college, this struggle became even more real since I had to do so on my own and drive 30-45 minutes to my college campus every morning. It was during this time that I discovered the wonderful perks of caffeinated beverages. I had a Dunkin Donuts gift card from my summer job and decided to use it each morning during my commute. This struggle of trying to wake up at a decent time has continued to be a struggle through my college and post-college career.

As I began my year of service with Capuchin Youth & Family Ministries, I knew that one of my greatest challenges of the year would be getting up and ready for the day before the students on the retreat. This proved to be especially difficult being that our retreats typically don’t wind down until about 11:30pm. This means that most of the retreatants don’t settle down until after midnight, sometimes much later. Being the “adult” it is my job to make sure that everyone is safe, in their beds, and attempting to sleep. I repeatedly tell them, “You know that I love you all, but do you know what I love even more? Sleeping.”

These odd work hours have become one of the greatest struggles of my Cap Corps year as well as one of my greatest joys. It is definitely the most difficult part of my job this past year. We constantly rearrange our sleep schedule based on different retreat programs. This is physically demanding, and lying in bed until the last possible minute doesn’t work in this field. One of the ways that I know helps me each day is waking up before the retreatants and being ready to wake them up. One of the struggles of this is doing it with a smile.

I realized early on in the year that this would be a challenge for me. In October of 2015, CYFM put on a Lock-In because of an unexpected open weekend. As bright-eyed, baby CCVs, we were so excited to put on a program that we were able to plan from scratch. However, with an overnight program filled with activities came little to no sleep. I believe I slept for a total of three hours during that retreat. The morning came, and myself along with four other volunteers and two friars had to be bright eyed, smiling servants.

As we prepared breakfast, and as the cherubs slowly rose and made their way down to the dining hall, I was actually cheery. To be honest, I still don’t know how this miracle occurred, being that I was actually exhausted. Fr. Tomas, being his normal, joyful self commented on my cheeriness and appearance of alertness. However, holding my warm cup of coffee in my hands, the only answer that I could come up with for him was that I was “faking it”.

This idea, for me, goes back to my time training to be a peer leader when I was in High School. I was a part of a ministry team that would be running the icebreakers, liturgy, and behind the scenes tasks at a youth conference in upstate New York (everything north of Westchester is upstate to a Long Islander, don’t yell at me!). The week involved Discipleship training, as well as practicing skits, games, etc. On our final day of the youth conference we were all exhausted. We rose at 6am to begin preparation for the final day of Ministry, and my youth minister was particularly cheery, as the rest of us were, well not.

I remember looking at him, with tired eyes, and asking, “Tom, how are you so awake right now?!” His response was simple, and it stuck with me (and stayed with me throughout my year of service).

“I’m not,” he replied “I’m faking it,” and he still had a smile on his face.

This idea stuck with me, not because it made my youth minister inauthentic, or made the job of ministry seem easy. This idea stuck with me because it made me realize that my youth minister was a real person, who genuinely cared about our well-being, and our souls. And although we were all exhausted, we were still there to serve, and we were there to be cheerful servants, not grumbly servants.

“Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. But, even if I am poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with all of you. In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.” Philippians 2: 14-18

And so, that morning in October, I was reminded of that encounter and the lesson that it taught me way back when.

Whether or not I kept this lesson in mind during later retreats is a different story. However I was reminded of this lesson towards the end of the year at one of the CAM orientation days. We were playing a question game, and one question that I was asked went like this:

Student: If you could be any food, what food would you be?

I thought for a minute and couldn’t think of a food. But, for some reason at that moment, I was reminded of one of my struggles this year: getting up on time, and doing it with a smile. And so, I cheated.

Me: Hmm. I’m going to cheat with this one: I would be a cup of coffee.

When I was asked why, I responded honestly, hoping that these attributes were part of my year. I hope that I was warm, and inviting to each retreatant, and to my fellow leaders. And I hope that I was able to wake everyone up in the morning.

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Esopus

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Last week the Cap Corps Volunteer community went on retreat to the Marist Brothers Center in Esopus, New York. A friar from the Province, Fr. Sam, gave the retreat to the five young adults.

The theme of this retreat was belonging. We explored contemplative prayer, poetry, and beauty. Our retreat began Tuesday evening and ended Friday afternoon. Each morning and night we had a “silent sit” or intentional quiet time. Our breakfasts and lunches were also had in silence. Each afternoon we had a couple of hours of free time, where we were allowed to relax, pray, or encounter Christ in reconciliation.  One of the most enjoyable parts of the retreat was our interaction with the full time volunteers at Esopus. During each of our meal times we were greeted with the same hospitality that we try to show our guests at CYFM. It was so nice to be on the receiving end of that grace though. The Marist volunteers have a blog too, you can check it out here.We had conversation at dinner, and some community time in the evening. We played games, had dessert, and tended to the fire in the living room.

Our introduction to contemplative prayer was through Thomas Keating and Centering Prayer. I found this practice particularly difficult. Although I am content with quiet, I often let my mind race and wander through parts of my day, my prayer life, and through past experiences. I usually end up taking one thing and thinking through it thoroughly, and not actually praying. This wasn’t really what we were supposed to be doing. And for some reason, I couldn’t actually focus on the point of centering prayer. Instead I thought about next year, and many other things.

To be honest, I probably should have taken the opportunity for “spiritual companionship” during free time. Rather, I took a shower, a brief nap, read for a bit, and took a walk down to the river.

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As I approached the Hudson River, I couldn’t get over the shards of ice that were floating along with the current, and getting left behind on the shore. It was kind of gloomy out. I say kind of because it was gray, but it was rather warm out, which made it bearable to walk around outside.

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I couldn’t get over how the ice resembled glass in appearance, but also in sound. The different pieces of ice clanked against each other, moving down the river, taking turns riding along with one another. It really was spectacular. On the way to dinner that night Fr. Sam and I spoke about how cool this was, but also serene and somewhat eerie. I think that this experience put me in a better place to reflect on beauty in the context of belonging.

We read poetry from Mary Oliver, Gerard Manley Hopkins, as well as others. I had never studied any of the poets that we read, but I was especially captivated by Hopkins use of language in As Kingfishers Catch Fire.

I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —

Isn’t it beautiful?! I never had the chance to study Hopkins, so I may be looking into some of his collected works in the near future… or when I have a chance to read (probably next year).

I think that the combination of contemplation, poetry, beauty, and a sprinkle of Laudato Si was beneficial for these Cap Corps. We spend so much time reflecting as a group throughout our normal (as normal as it can be) schedule. The quiet, although difficult for some, was nice. It was nice to spend that time with the Lord, in a more structured and relaxed way.

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Mary

*This post originally appeared on the Cap Corps Volunteer blog on 2/25/16*

Interlaken and Bonticou Crag

GUYS! We’ve had such a crazy week. We’ve been all over this great state of New York. We started by going up to Interlaken, New York, which is in the Fingerlakes. We stayed right on Lake Cayuga. Above are a few photos from our four days in Interlaken. I’ll be writing more about our retreat on the Cap Corp Blog within a few days 🙂

On Sunday we were able to go on a community hike with Tom and his wife, Julie. We hiked Bonticou Crag, outside of New Paltz, New York.  Most of the hike was pleasant. A brief period included a rock scramble. It was more like free-climbing boulders that were at almost a 90 degree angle. It was slightly terrifying, but we worked together and got through it. The view was amazing. To one side we had the Catskill Mountains and to the other side we had the Hudson Valley. Absolutely beautiful.

More to come in a bit 🙂

The End of a Week

fall retreat agape

So I’m apologizing for being M.I.A. for the past week or so. Last week I had midterms, but I was able to end my week with a retreat. I travelled to Shelter Island, NY with the Newman Club for a weekend centered around Agape. More to come on that later. I just wanted to let you all know why I had been quiet. I’ll be around again soon.

Love and prayers,
Mary