I just got back from an amazing two-week orientation with my fellow YASCers in preparation for our big moves to different dioceses around the world. The training was held principally at the Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York, but we also had a few days in the city. Most of our days were spent hanging out as a group and attending sessions on cross-cultural adaptation, self-care, spiritual practices and more logistical region-specific information, which were all organized by the YASC and Domestic Foreign Missionary Society staff. We also worshipped, prayed, conversed and enjoyed moments of silence with the brothers of Holy Cross and were lucky enough to be the recipients of their words of wisdom and to be personally guided by them during this time of momentous transition in our lives.
In my view, the monastery was the perfect place for our orientation. For me, both times that I have visited Holy Cross (the first was at YASC Discernment Weekend this past February), I have felt a reconnection with my spirituality and with the person that I believe God truly wishes me to be. I think part of it has to do with the people I am surrounded by there-- the brothers live a spiritually-centered daily life in which there is much time carved out for worship, prayer, personal reflection and reflection with others. Several of the brothers held "spiritual practice workshops" for the YASCers over the two weeks we were there, some of which included yoga, meditation, journaling and spiritual direction. It was during these workshops, during meals and free time between sessions that we were able to ask them questions about our own relationships with God, about things we may be experiencing in life, and learn more about methods to cope with struggle and anxiety. I think the daily rhythm of life at Holy Cross also helped us YASCers to refocus on God and stop to listen to His voice. Attending the Daily Offices (Matins, Diurnum, occasional Eucharist, Vespers and Compline) along with ample free time to be used for contemplative prayer, bible study, rest and reading allowed us to be consumed by an environment that does not operate on the time or concerns of the outside world. For millennial 20-somethings, this is probably the biggest gift imaginable. Our lives seem to be constantly moving and full of activity, both in reality and in our online presence. The ability to be silent, to stop thinking about social media, friends/relationships back home, jobs, responsibilities, etc. is a wonderful privilege that I doubt many people my age have been given.
Our time in the city was admittedly a bit different--a little louder, a little more hustle-and-bustle and a little bit of a mental shift to the outside world once again. Is it strange to say that I think the fact that we had been at Holy Cross for a week beforehand helped us to better deal with the stresses and the general chaotic nature of the city than we would have otherwise? I felt refreshed, calm, centered and ready to take on the outside world rather than withdraw from it.
I saw a quote recently from an unknown person that stated that "peace...does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart." This is precisely what I think being at the monastery means for me and for others that visit. It's creating within us a greater dependency on God which allows for an inner calm and stillness that cannot be easily shaken. If I had to guess, I would say it is also something the YASC staff hoped we would take away from being at Holy Cross. As I think more and more about my time in Haiti, the more I realize that I will have to build dependency on God in order to retain that stability and inner peace in the midst of the chaos and unpredictability that is sure to come my way.
Although it's not really congruous with the theme of this post, I have to say a word about my fellow YASCers. I'm not sure--and I'm being completely honest about this--that I've ever been in a group of people, other than my family, that is more kind, more open to differences and more in touch with themselves, their emotions and their relationships with God. It's truly amazing to see the diversity of backgrounds, races, cultures, ethnicities and identities within this group of people and I have no doubt that my inner peace will be more easily realized through their support. I see Christ in each and every one of them and I believe it was God's will to bring us all together. We are called as a group to be honest, supportive, kind and merciful to each other just as Christ was with the human race. I could not be more excited to witness their journeys as they go out into the world and bring God's love to others.
*If you would like to learn more about Holy Cross Monastery, please visit: http://www.holycrossmonastery.com.*