August 24, 2011
Thursday night at the Welcoming Ceremony, I did not mention that I ran into someone I knew from Eugene. You must remember, we are talking about nearly two million people here. But I looked over in the crowd at one point and thought I saw…yes, it was Fr. David Jaspers! Fr. David is a new young priest at St. Alice in Springfield, and he happened to attend Marist High School when I was there some 10 plus years ago.
I tapped him on the shoulder and there was a mutual relief to see someone from home. As the crowd dispersed, David suggested dinner and I was happy to have the company. We talked about how to support parishes and youth ministry and the allusive young adult age bracket. It seems to be the Catholic mentality that the college years are a right of passage to “experience life” and then come back to the Church when you are married or want to baptize your children. The sad thing is that all too often parents embrace this, or at least throw up their hands with a “What are you gonna do?” sort of attitude. It needs to stop. Because the truth is, these years are still formative, and many simply never come back. And as much as us youth ministers would like to be that last voice of reason before young people turn into college freshmen running towards the edge of the cliff, it is the parents that need to begin a pattern of accountability long before the cliff ever comes into view.
As David and I talked over tortilla espanola and calamari, he and I discovered that we were both living in Spain at the same time, back in 1997. I found this an unbelievable coincidence.
I told him how as an Evangelical at the time (I was working with Youth With A Mission), I did prayer walks around Catholic churches in Spain, asking God to help Catholic Spaniards find Jesus.
He smiled, “That´s not a bad prayer to pray.”
I realized that it wasn´t.
We have in common a soft spot for the Castilian accent, flamenco music, and tapas. We do not, however share a love for Picasso or La Reina Sofia – a modern art museum here in Madrid. Apparently I’m alone on that one. “I could write a paper about Guernica” he says, “but don´t ask me to like it.”
Let me digress about Fr. David for a moment. When we were both in high school at one point we were in a discussion group about peer pressure. As the leader of the discussion David said at one point, “If I can´t have a good time sober, what does that say about me as a person?” I doubt he could remember the conversation. I was just a shy sophomore girl looking up to the senior captain of the football team. But that statement has stuck with me to this day, and may be the single biggest factor in me avoiding underage drinking. Never underestimate how profoundly God can touch others through our example, our words, our lives, without us ever knowing.
We continued to talk about the Lord, and Lifeteen, and Theology on Tap – different programs within the Catholic Church. I told him how I was leaving St. Peter parish, and had applied for the youth minister position at St. Mary in Eugene. It was my hope that during my trip here in Spain that clarity would come about the job, but it hasn´t. The position has been on my heart for years, to be honest. But I never felt I was ready. I do not know that I am ready now. If you have the time…whoever you are…wherever you are…please pray for God to guide me in this process of discernment. Please pray for the wisdom of those at St. Mary, that they may hear the Lord on the matter and be filled with conviction – that there would be no doubt in their minds, but that they would hire the right person for the job. My enthusiasm has wavered and my insecurities have given place to doubt. So we pray.
When Fr. David and I parted, we made plans to meet for a flamenco show on Monday night with a small group. Unfortunately, when Monday night came, I wondered the streets looking for the right place, but never found the tablao they were at. There is much I have not included in this blog for the sake of brevity, but this evening of wandering, somewhat lost and alone was typical of my trip as a whole. From the first day until now, despite true moments of inspiration and joy, my pilgrimage has been incredibly lonely and physically demanding. I have shared some, but not all of my challenges, as I do not want anyone to misread my honesty as complaining, or that I regret my trip. It was a wonderful, wonderful blessing to be part of World Youth Day, but the God that I have found here, is the same God I have at home. as much as I love the streets pulsing with history and music and beauty, I feel a bit like Dorothy today – my last day in Madrid. Of all the lessons I have learned, of ALL THE LESSONS I HAVE LEARNED, perhaps my greatest is this: I am greatly, greatly blessed. It is wonderful to find God in an experience such as this, halfway around the world. But I prefer to encounter God in the faces of my children, the embrace of my husband, and the peace of walking out life where I have been called. I will not miss Madrid when I board the plane tomorrow. I thank her for what she has given me, and for what I will carry with me for years to come. But I am ready to go home.