One of the greatest gifts I received the whole week during Camp this year was when I was away from Camp. And that’s funny, because this year was so full of grace and the power of the Holy Spirit that I don’t think anything will be the same after what went on up there (and don’t feel bad those of you who weren’t there, I don’t think the Spirit will be satisfied with moving the hearts of only those who were physically with us at Camp!). In a wonderfully simple way of saying it, Archbishop Gomez told the group of us Los Angeles Seminarians, gathered together at the Cathedral on the Friday of Camp, that “this is a beautiful time to be a priest.”
I remember venting to a couple of the other leaders the night before (or should I say early morning!), I really didn’t want to get up and leave Camp so I could drive two and a half hours down to LA when I’m finally getting into the groove and the rhythm of Camp. Sure, I would love to get together with my seminarian brothers to have Mass and lunch and celebrate getting ready for the new school year, but it just felt like it was getting in the way of doing what I wanted to do: being there with you all, in prayer, in fun, and in worship. After all, I didn’t get to bed until almost 2 am, and knowing that I’d have to drive out by 7:30 am to make it in time to the Cathedral, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the fact that I had only 3 hours of sleep ahead of me.
But hey, why do I tell God how I’m going to feel about something before I let it happen? For weeks, I had been dreading the thought of leaving Camp for the morning (and I missed zip-lining, I mean, come on!), making that long drive, and then coming back up and trying to find my rhythm again. But I should know by now that God kind of likes to show off, and He makes beautiful things out of my little frustrations and those times when I judge an experience before it even happens.
It was really good to see all my seminarian brothers again, even if for a short time. I even got to talk personally with the Archbishop briefly over lunch, so I could share with him what we were doing that week and how on fire you all are. Seriously, he was so excited to hear how awesomely you all respond to Mass, to Adoration, to our Blessed Mother. I just have to let you all know, our Archbishop cares deeply for what we’re doing. And in a time when his job is so very difficult, with all the scandals and media pressure swamping the Los Angeles Archdiocese at times, he still wants you all to know that what you were doing at Camp, and especially what you bring back home with you, is so important for everyone you meet and everyone you love. And for the Church.
And so when he said that it is a beautiful time to be a priest and to be seminarian, I know he wasn’t just speaking to us seminarians, or even to the priests of Los Angeles. I think he was telling this to all of us Catholics, knowing that on the surface, the Catholic Church may look to be in trouble. The scandals and the rumors and the lawsuits and the politics can all get in the way of what’s really going on in the deep. And what’s going on in the deep? You are. What’s happening at Camp, with the music, the Mass, the Adoration, the Grokking, the Rosary Walks, and yes, even the zip-lining, is just a little bit of what makes our Church so beautiful and what makes the times we live in so beautiful. If the Church was just some social institution, where politics and laws made up the whole of it, it would be like anything else that falls apart in this world. But since we are the Church, we are its living stones, what we do in very privileged and special moments, like Camp, and even every Sunday Mass, matters. And it matters in a way that changes this world and challenges this world, changes us and challenges us.
I know I was challenged this week to let the Word of God have its say whenever I was speaking, and it changed me. I know some of you were challenged to face your own struggles and sins, and the release of Reconciliation and the wholeness offered by Mass and Adoration changed you. And if we think that the ways we’ve been challenged and changed won’t affect the ones we love, just try to remember the way we lived for a few days up in the mountains, and bring it back into their lives down here. You may just challenge and change the world around us. And that’s what Camp is really for: not just for a good time, but to challenge and to change us. Because we are the living stones that make up the Church and we are living in times too important and too beautiful to think we weren’t put here for a reason. Become that challenge, become that change. And let Christ be the foundation that holds us up.