Steubenville South, held in Alexandria, LA was a wrap on Sunday. I was so excited to have attended with my two oldest daughters, who are incredible young women of faith. For those of you who are not familiar with the Steubenville conferences, these are charismatic in nature, youth-praise worthy, and originating from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. They are LOUD, exciting, and full of speakers and prayers. Saturday night concludes with an incredible Adoration, and Sunday finishes the weekend in a Mass with the local Bishop.
I have to admit…I love going with my kids, and have done so for the past three years, but I was not incredibly excited about this particular experience this year. My heart has been yearning for a silent retreat. Being a working Catholic mom, I am torn between going on a retreat or spending retreat time with my girls. I do not have the time or resources to do both. It is not a real contest: I’m a momma first, and my first job in life is to help them grow in their faith. Still…I was not looking forward to a loud conference when my heart wanted the whisper. I was determined to go with an open heart.
I know there were times I lost focus during the conference. The music can only get so loud. And while I love raising my voice and hands in praise, I am not as comfortable doing this as I am in contemplation exercises which offer quiet praise and close listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I must admit, there were complaints from my mouth to the youth minister about the loud bass drum and the electric guitars. I was just frustrated, and I let it have the best of me.
During Adoration on Saturday night, I even manipulated myself to have an aisle seat amongst the 3,000 teens so I could be in the aisle as the Monstrance passed our section. I thought, “If only I can touch the Monstrance, and see the Lord Jesus present, contemplation will come to my heart.” As Adoration began, I was praying, “Lord, what do you want of me?” This is usually my opening plea during Adoration. In the silence of my own heart, among the beating of the bass drum and electric guitars, I heard the whisper of, “You are a momma.”
To tell you the truth, I have heard that quite a bit in Adoration. While I was grateful to be affirmed in my motherhood, I was longing for a life-shattering answer. What seemed to be mundane turned into an incredible Adoration experience. Right after realizing my motherhood, I heard sobs coming from the side of our row. I realized my daughter was sobbing during Adoration, and that the young man beside her, new to his own faith, was also having quite an experience. I was in action. I was able to head down the row, take care of some of their needs, and head back into the auditorium to finish with Benediction, which was beautiful.
The next day in Mass, I was thanking God for the beautiful experiences of the weekend, even though I did wish for more silence. I told Him how aggravated I can get and that my worship experiences were interrupted for bass drums and electric guitars.
That’s when I saw the most amazing thing from the corner of my eye. A young man in a wheelchair was seated two spaces away from my seat at Mass. I noticed his hands were rigidly curled in his lap, and he appeared to have rigid muscles all over his body. His body movements seemed haphazard and unplanned. I kept watching him, as he was singing the entrance Mass song, “Bless the Lord, O My Soul.” This is one of the most beautiful songs played during the weekend, but has a big bass drum part that I kept thinking through the weekend really “messed” the song up, so to speak. As I was watching this young man, I could tell he really loved the song. When it got to the bass drum part, he would stomp his feet to the beat – literally the only part of his body he could intentionally manipulate into moving. And the joy on his face when he did this was radiant and full of love for a God that has given us so much.
I thought I needed a small whisper, but God knew I needed a lightening bolt. I had made the weekend about my faith…what I hoped to gain…what fun I would have with the kids. My focus was wrong. I realized a couple of things throughout the final Mass:
- Bass drums and electric guitars can and do bring others to the heart of Christ…sometimes in ways we can never understand or expect. Bless the Lord, O My Soul!
- Recall Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” Keeping your eyes focused on God and how He sees things helps to understand that the desires of our hearts will be taken care of in His time. I wanted and desired silence. At the end of communion, the worship leaders led a beautiful piano-played song about the silence of your heart. Thank you, God.
- There is room in the Church for all sorts of worship. The Source and Summit of our Faith stays the same: The Eucharist. Our Church needs the expression of praise the young Church brings to our Catholic experience. It is beautiful…bass drums and electric guitars included.
- At the end of the weekend, my daughters told me, “Momma, you are like the youth group Mom.” Guilty as charged. I love those kids.
- Pray without ceasing. Listen in the loud and the quiet.
What an incredible experience. If you have never heard of Steubenville conferences, follow here to the website. If you never heard some of these speakers, find out more about Mary Bielski, Sean Forester, Brian Greenfield, and Paul George, with musical genius of Josh Blakesley and Sarah Kroger. You will not be disappointed to find the young Church is alive and well, and definitely breaking open the hearts of the youth of our faith.
Peace of Christ to you and yours!
Copyright 2013 Mary Wallace