I had the privilege of co-leading an inter-campus guys-only Advent retreat this past weekend. It was an intimate retreat with good discussion and soulful, quality time together. I was struck by how much these guys need more Advent time in their lives—time to re-center and to sit still with the complexity of a kingdom that is already here but not yet realized in its fullness. This retreat reminded me of the truth that our students do not always need retreats to entertain or stimulate them in a high-tech sort of way. We used Ronald Rolheiser’s classic The Holy Longing as our guide as discussed what it means to have an incarnational spirituality while also addressing ways in which this spirituality informs how we act in the world (social justice) and how we honor our bodies and our holy energies (sexuality).
I have perhaps read too many studies of young and emerging adult spiritual and religious sensibilities, and it is easy to enter into a doomsday sort of attitude about the spiritual trends of the young adults with whom we minister. This weekend brought me back to some basic truths about our ministries. Our students are hungry and they are waiting for the invitation to reflect on their lives with more depth. I am grateful that this Advent season reminds me that deep down we have the same ultimate longings. I am always amazed how God satisfies these longings in the most unexpected ways. A co-leader of the retreat reminded me of this classic prayer of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin as a way of summarizing the gentle, gradual and powerful movement of God in our lives:
“Above all, trust in the slow work of God
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability-
and that it may take a very long time. And so I think it is with you.
your ideas mature gradually – let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.”
Greg Baker is Director of Campus Ministry for Mercyhurst University in Erie, PA