This weekend I had the amazing opportunity to serve as the spiritual director for the Teen ACTS Retreat that took place at the Christian Life Center in Frenchville, Maine. (If you want to know more about ACTS, go to www.actsmissions.org) This is a role that kind of just fell into my lap when I arrived in Caribou...I knew nothing about ACTS and so I had no idea what to expect going into this. And being a priest for only 59 days, I have never had the experience of being a spiritual director on a retreat, so needless to say I went into this fairly blind.
As I drove up to Frenchville on Thursday for the retreat (an hour north, if you can believe it!) I was unsure of myself...would I be able to relate to 35+ teens? would I have anything to say that would be worth their time and attention? would I be able to be an instrument of God working in their lives or would I just get in His way? The drive seemed short as I turned to God in prayer asking Him to help me just be a good priest this weekend.
When I arrived that afternoon I immediately celebrated Mass for "the Team" (which is comprised of adults and other teens who have already made their ACTS retreat.) The morning had been so busy that I hadn't even had a chance to look at the readings for Mass, never mind prepare a homily...so when I got to the sacristy I pulled out the lectionary and was thrilled to see that the first reading was again from the Prophet Jeremiah. On Wednesday we began reading from Jeremiah 1, wherein we heard the frightened young prophet protesting his new rank because of his youth, to which the Lord responded, "Say not, 'I am too young.' To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.'" I love this passage...in fact, it was the reading at my ordination...and yet I am so quick to join up with Jeremiah and say the same thing: I'm too young...I have no clue what I'm doing...this just isn't going to work. It's funny (and providential, no doubt) that the day before I head to this retreat, with all my fears and anxieties, we get this reading. On Thursday the lectionary plunged us into Jeremiah 2...here Jeremiah gets his first task: to go to the people of Jerusalem and to decry their infidelity to the Lord, exclaiming that the Lord remembers the devotion of their youth. These readings from Jeremiah turned out to be the perfect backdrop for a youth retreat and were a pure gift to an unprepared homilist. But as much as I challenged those teens, I think I was the one who was challenged the most. Just as He did on the day of my ordination, our good God put before my heart the example of Jeremiah and asked me, begged me, to just trust in Him. It was as if He was saying, "Put your worries aside, Kyle...put aside all of your fears and anxieties, and let Me be God." And that's what He did...and it blew me away.
While I can't get into specifics about the retreat for the sake of confidentiality, I can say that the whole experience was amazing. I was privileged to be a first-hand observer of the amazing power and love of God at work in the lives of His beloved youth. I talked with them, laughed with them, played with them, prayed with them, cried with them, absolved them...I journeyed with them and did my best to help them realize what I am so often slow to realize: you're never too young for God to do amazing things in, with, and through you.
And by the way, for you retreatants reading this...listen closely to God's call. Some of you are being called to the priesthood. Seriously. Listen.