The car pulled into St Joseph's parking lot last night about 11:30 and the tired travellers piled out. We had been on various airplanes for over 6 hours and were ready to go on home.
But what a great week we had!
Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio (birthplace of Dean Martin!) is an oasis of Faith, Hope and Charity (and the greatest of these is...?) in the world. Every year, the RCIA Team at St Joseph's and Sacred Heart in Turlock trek to Francisco for the St Don Bosco Conference. We immerse ourselves in study, music, praise, worship and Holy Liturgy and come back to the Central Valley refreshed and renewed.
It is much more than a retreat, but there are 'retreat-like' qualities to the conference. Daily Mass, The Sacrament of Reconcilliation, Holy Hour - all of these are offered during our time at Franciscan.
And even though we are surrounded by the Order of St Francis, there is also a Dominican component to the whole thing: The Order of Preachers under the Rule of St Dominic expand upon the ancient practice of the Priests and Levites of the Jewish people. The study of the Faith is an extension of worship - a type of liturgy, if you will - and so to be immersed in the study of The Faith is to worship God.
I am on the RCIA Track; that is, I am working towards certification as an RCIA Catechist from Franciscan University. I hope to expand that (I am already a certified Marian Catechist under the Auspices of Archbishop Raymond Burke but only at the beginner level)to an BA in Catechetics and a MA in a similar field but that is WAY in the future. For right now, I want to be a member of a solid, orthodox team of Catholic Catechists and do my best to hand on the Faith given to the Apostles, to their successors, down through the ages.
One of our best teachers this year was a Professor Drake McCallister, a former Four Square Gospel Minister who came into full communion with The Church in 2004. The father of five girls (he says he can now make the joke, "I am blessed among women" and people get it - they never got it before when he was Protestant), Drake taught a class on Apostolicity and a class on Apologetics for Catechists. Neither of his classes were long enough, which I understand is the sign that I am a true geek when it comes to being a student.
On Friday night we were given a lecture by Martha Fernandes-Sardina of the Diocese of San Antonio. She is on FIRE with love for Jesus Christ and she challenged us to get on the Transformation Track (a play on words for all the different learning tracks offered at the conference). Martha, told us to look at the marching orders given to us by Jesus Christ...and said, "make the decision that you are going to answer the Church's Universal Call to Holiness, to try and live the Teachings not just teach them, to try and reach your goal of becoming a saint".
Making that decision is, of course, the major step needed. We cannot move forward until we make a decision that we are going to be something more than what we can be under our own steam. We have to turn fully to The Lord and say, "OK. You ask a lot. I don't think I can do this on my own but You have given me the ways and means and I am promising You I will use all that You have given me. I will do, each day, to the best of my ability what I must do to be a Catholic Christian in the world. A world that hates anything 'too different'. A world that does not understand what I am trying to do and will delight when I fall."
Today, I took my first call at 0615. I cleaned out my desk of all the old papers and junk I have a tendency to accumulate over time (I have a tendency to be a pack rat). I did my laundry, fixed the fence gate and took the dog for a walk...I have a week left of vacation and lots to do!
But I can do it today, and I can do all this with more of a prayerful attitude than I would have a week ago. These are not just chores...these are prayers.
For prayer is something necessary for the Transformation Track..and I wanna be on that train.