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Sunday, 20 October 2013

Grasp at nothing

    When I was a high school teacher, we used to get out the canoes and run the rapids of the Little Nation River on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. When the going got rough, we would take a swig of Nanuk from a little white whiskey bottle which had a polar bear pictured on its label. The fire water burned all the way down our esophagus, and was so potent that it could have been used to ignite our fires later on in the day. That was our crutch, and it got us through the narrows.

     And so when Marcus Grodi, Presdent of The Coming Home Network, told a canoe story during one of his speeches at the “In Search of Truth,” conference presented by Catholic Chapter House over the weekend at Canada Christian College in Toronto, I took it all in, hook line and sinker.

      Marcus had been steering a canoe down a treacherous part of a river while doling out the odd piece of advice on how to survive the rapids, to his inexperienced partner kneeling at the front.

      As the current pulled them closer to shore, they passed under an overhanging branch, and the girl grabbed it in an attempt to slow down the canoe. The canoe flipped and they were sucked down the river, but fortunately managed to make it to shore. Later on while being teased by his peers, Marcus kindly said nothing about the girl grasping the branch to the others, but he did have a lot to say about it to us.

      Mr. Grodi advised us to grasp at nothing, and this advice hit home with me because I am by nature a grasper. I have a strong grip, and have always grabbed things along the way, especially if I am afraid of falling, stumbling or tipping over. It seems to be a natural tendency, even if it is a crutch, and can be very dangerous, often stopping my progress in an instant.

      When Blessed John Paul II would exhort me to “Be not afraid,” I would still resist, and look for those overhanging branches to grab. It reminds of the movie “127 Hours,” when the hiker is suspended in a crevasse with his hiking boots pushing the rock wall on one side and his back pushing from the other. Below him is a drop of some sixty feet, all down a very narrow chute, ending in a cold pool of crystal blue water. Without any warning, he lets go, and free falls with the rock wall inches from his nose. The two female climbers who are with him look at each other as if to say, “Who is he kidding?” This sort of trust and bravery spooks me out.

      I ask myself, “Could I do it if I had to?” Would I have the guts to stop pushing out with my feet and back, and simply quit grasping the wall so to speak? Marcus Grodi's
message came through loud and clear and then some. We spend our lives grasping things, collecting, hoarding, and most of it is superfluous, and halts our progress towards Jesus' kingdom.

     As Pope Francis has told us, you will never see a moving truck in a funeral procession.

      When I was a high school teacher, and I felt tired from the grind, I used to tune into Billy Graham's Crusade, which was broadcast from different football stadiums across the USA. Reverend Graham spoke with command, and a seriousness which was unnerving at times. He spoke of the family, and what God meant it to be, and he always had the Bible by his side. I used to wonder how a non-Catholic could speak directly to me, and move me so much. I fact, I enjoyed Billy Graham a lot more than many of the homilies I was hearing at Mass on Sundays.

      Marcus Grodi is cut from the same cloth. Like Billy Graham, he uses his hands to emphasize his points, he lifts his Bible up for all to see, and he opens it up to the verses he wants to use. The Bible becomes his prop, and the medium is the message. This is the magic of their speaking style, and both men possess it to perfection.

      And even though these two preachers have not been anointed in the tradition of the apostles, directly from Saint Peter, they have a great deal to teach us about being faithful Christians in a secular society.

     So let us all pray that Billy Graham will one day come home to the Catholic Church, just as Marcus Grodi did, so that we can welcome him with open arms after his long journey home.

Now that would be cause for celebration.


Monday, 14 October 2013

Milton Conquest Club Retreat: a day of sprituality and fun

     Milton Conquest ran its Club Retreat October 12, 2013, and the Club Youth Leaders and Club program boys provided a stellar example of what Conquest is all about.
     The boys led all the activities, and maintained order and control throughout the day. The younger boys had no problem listening to instructions, especially when they were being delivered by the youth leaders. As a result, the whole day seemed to run efficiently and smoothly, and the boys seemed to appreciate the chance to be led by people their own age. There just seems to be something magical about having  youth leaders in charge for a day, and the beaming smiles on all the boys' faces at the end of the retreat seemed to reflect this reality.
     I had the opportunity to attend the Eucharistic Adoration segment with one group, and I watched as Nathan Duarte led them in prayer and contemplation. The group gave him their undivided attention, and as they left the chapel, I could see that they had all changed in some small way, through the question and answer session and the quiet time of adoration, or "radiation therapy" as we like to call it. There were several parishioners in the chapel at the time, and it was easy to see that they were impressed by the seriousness and comportment of the group.
     Of course, the adults, led by Conquest Director, Marvin Duarte had planned the retreat to perfection, and Father Thomas Murphy LC and Brother Nathan Wayne LC, were instrumental in making this a very sacred and spiritual day for all involved.
     And so, the spirituality, the recitation of the Rosary throughout the day, the visitation to Mary's shrine and the presentation of flowers and special intentions, and the closing Mass were all strengthened by the spontaneity of the boys as they were led by their peers.
     And if there is one thing the boys will remember about the Club Retreat it will be Father Murphy's homily about the good wolf and the bad wolf which are in all of us, and how they vie for our attention day in and day out. The bad wolf howls when we are greedy and voracious, and the good wolf howls when we are generous and show gratitude.
     They will also remember that they should always ask God for one thing, and thank him for two.
That attitude of gratitude was probably the most important thing the boys brought home from the Milton Conquest Club Retreat, and we all hope and pray they maintain it throughout their adolescent years and adult lives.
     That is the magic of Conquest. That is just one of its gifts to the boys. Thank God for the Conquest Club Retreat and for the Club Youth Leaders and Club program boys.