Monday, June 14, 2010

Marianist Musings: Life Teen

This is the ninth in a series of student reflections from the Life Teen Leadership Conference last summer. Over 500 young men and women gathered together to learn and express their faith.

I really didn’t know what to expect from LifeTeen when I first arrived at Notre Dame in late June. I had heard that it was a “Catholic Leadership Conference”, but I honestly wasn’t very sure what that even meant. LifeTeen certainly exceeded whatever expectations I had, however, as that week I spent in Indiana turned out to be one of the highlights of my summer vacation.

I went to LifeTeen with 19 other students from Kellenberg and Chaminade High School (some of whom I was friends with, and others whom I barely knew or had never even seen before) as well as 4 teacher chaperones. Though I originally did not have high hopes for making any friends among the group from Chaminade, a day in Chicago at the “Taste of Chicago” Festival certainly helped break the ice, as well as the 2 hours we spent under an overpass when our bus’ tire blew out and nicknames were given to nearly everyone on the bus. Some of these nicknames even have lasted throughout the summer, (Example: The Professor) and they let us all laugh at each other. I became much closer with that group throughout the week, and feel a special connection with all the people, teachers and students, who came on the trip with me. From waking up with Dan Brandon at 5:30 AM to go running around the lake with The Professor. And then to our daily soccer and ultimate Frisbee matches, the entire group had become very close by the end of the week, and I have made quite a few new friends from the experience.

Another notable thing about the Life Teen experience was the enthusiasm of all the other Catholics from around the nation. Even though I, and I’m sure at least several other students in our group, were a little shocked from the enthusiasm of many of the other Catholics in their faith, the feeling turned out to be infectious. By the middle of the week I was fully immersed in Life Teen and loving every minute of it. I was doing hand motions to a whole host of songs sung by the excellent musicians, experiencing Mass on a level I have never experienced before, and even bear-hugging random people from Texas. I absolutely loved the spiritual feeling that seemed to live in every single person at Life Teen that week. The discussions we listened to every day were both entertaining and greatly relevant to my life. I’m glad I did write in the journal that we received, as many of the lessons we learned in the discussions have already helped me become a better person. I know I’ll always be able to look at my LifeTeen journal when I’m struggling and be strengthened by the reminder of God’s love for me.

The two most meaningful things I experienced during the week I spent at Notre Dame were the Adorations and Masses. I had never particularly enjoyed Adoration beforehand, but during Life Teen, I finally understood what it was all about, and was able to fully immerse myself in it every night, so much so that I actually looked forward to it by the end of the week. I now make every effort to go to Adoration Thursday nights at my own parish. Before Life Teen, Mass was a very routine experience for me. I often would find myself losing focus during Mass and thinking of other things, and often failed to get any meaning out of the homilies. That certainly changed after Life Teen though. During that week, I witnessed the most beautiful Masses I have ever experienced in my life, and experiencing them with other people just as enthusiastic in their faith made it even better. Now when I go to Mass, I no longer day dream or lose focus. I can understand the homilies and messages in the readings, and understand the significance of the Consecration. Life Teen radically changed my perception of Mass, from a weekly thing that I had to do, to an incredible experience every week that could bring me closer to my God.

On Friday, I found myself almost sad that I had to go home to my family again, because it meant the end of that great week where I was surrounded by that infectious enthusiasm and spirit. I feel that that week at Notre Dame has changed who I am spiritually and brought my closer to God as well as the other people on the trip. The Life Teen experience has made me into a better person and a better Catholic, and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to go.
Billy Kurinskas
On June 27, 2010,  twenty-four students from our Marianist high schools will be traveling to Benedictine College in Kansas for the Life Teen Conference. 13 days to departure. Pray for us!