Bokeh by Pexels via Pixabay, CCO

Teaching the faith can be a challenge. The Confirmation retreat was nearly over, so we settled back in the main hall after a few hours in the church to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and spend time in Eucharistic Adoration. Though I’ve presented to teenagers for years, it never gets any easier. Corralling them for 8 hours, most against their own will, usually creates a less than friendly atmosphere. This particular group, despite my attempts to provide engaging activities and quick witted presentations, was very difficult to reach.

It was a huge relief to glance at the clock and realize there were fewer than two hours left. “You got this,” I murmured to myself, and grabbed the microphone to begin my last presentation. I barely completed the sign of the cross, when suddenly a young man dressed in a suit stood up.

“Excuse me,” I politely addressed him, “break is over and we are clearly about to pray. We are almost finished; we just have one more subject to cover.” What happened next, even as I type it, still astounds me. “Who,” he began, “do you expletive think you are. This has been complete bull-expletive you have been shoveling at us all day.” Perhaps he saw an opportunity to pounce, since the room had emptied of all adults except me. Before I could answer, he continued with more sentence enhancers and crazy accusations. He had clearly come with preconceived and very misguided notions of Catholicism. My presentations always focus on living the faith in our everyday life and I purposely steer clear of controversial subjects – because I am fully aware that Apologetics are my Achilles heel. This young man perhaps sensed that as well.

The part of my brain that was presently retrieving all of my training in youth ministry and facilitating retreats was screaming “halt, do not fall into this trap, cease all arguments now”! How I wish my brain had won. Instead, the “I’m 100% in the right here” and “I can win him over” foolish pride part took over and things went from really bad to absolutely horrible. The room buzzed, split between angry and uncomfortable teens. Some students stormed out (in tears). The young man continued screaming obscenities, and in fifteen short minutes, I had managed to lose complete control of the retreat, and destroy any good the first part of the day may have imparted. If nothing else, it would be one they’d never forget.

On the way home, still quite shaken, I called a friend. She wisely suggested I head to my parish where I would find either the church or adoration chapel open. I was grateful there was a function at the Parish Center, as that meant our small, private chapel would be available. I slunk into the last pew of the small chapel, put my head down on the back of the pew in front of me, and fell completely apart. “God, I am out doing your work,” I sobbed, “I just want to help these kids love you. How could you do this to me!” It was the single worst moment of teaching I’d ever experienced. The more I allowed the memories of the day wash over me, the more intense my cries became until I was just a puddle of tears, snot, and utter defeat.

Then in my heart, I felt this gentle stirring of the Holy Spirit. I raised my head and stared at the crucifix just beyond the Tabernacle. In my heart I heard – if you want to share in my glory then you must also be willing to share in the suffering. As these words were settling in and as the crucifix came more into focus through my tear-swollen eyes, I then heard – if I did not spare my Son from suffering, what makes you think you’d be any different? This profound moment of prayer concluded with my recalling the words from Luke’s Gospel, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

In Chapter 3 of Walk in Her Sandals: Experiencing Christ’s Passion through the Eyes of Women, our reading and reflection focuses on Good Friday. While Christ challenges us to pick up our cross daily, if we want to follow Him, none of us will have to shoulder the one as heavy as the one he carried to Calvary. Yes, I had experienced a cross, but none comparable to the betrayal, the scourging, the crowning of thorns, and the jeering inflicted upon Jesus. Every human being will face difficulties – their own crosses and as Jesus reminds us in Luke’s Gospel, some will present themselves daily. The beautiful gift of sensitivity empowers us to embrace those crosses, use them for helping and healing which, as Pat Gohn reminds us, “breeds saints.”

Once I allowed those powerful messages received in the chapel to penetrate my wounded heart, I wiped my tears and rose from the pew. I left that day with a renewed sense of peace and encouragement in my call to share the Good News. I prayed for that young man who was polished on the outside but clearly at odds within. Through the eyes of Christ, possibly through the gift of sensitivity, I was able to recognize the boy’s reaction came from his own pain and woundedness. Good Friday is about sacrifice, forgiveness and redemption. As Dr. Carol Younger concludes, “when united with Jesus’ suffering, your suffering has tremendous meaning”. Let us pick up our crosses, daily, and choose to follow Him.

 

All rights reserved, Allison Gingras 2017

Showing 8 comments
  • Judy
    Reply

    I am willing to share in Jesus’ suffering yet I am so weak. Since Sept 2009 I’ve been trying to unite small food sacrifices with the supreme suffering Jesus endured on the Cross (LightWeigh.com), and offer them up with special intentions. I’ve had many successes; and experienced many missed opportunities. Those don’t make me feel good.

    Jesus isn’t asking for my perfection, since he knows I’ll never achieve this 100%. Instead, he asks that I turn to God, dust myself off, forgive myself, and start again fresh. We have the God of Second Chances. I am willing to unite with Christ’s suffering that I start my day with a recommitment to his plan.

  • ALLISON GINGRAS
    Reply

    Judy, I love your reflections. I would like to know more about this LightWeight.com… I couldn’t find it. I have several food allergies, and it sounds like being able to offer the sacrifice of not being able eat them as a prayer; it would be a whole new way of accepting this cross. I miss bread. I miss bread a lot. lol. And perfection, Oooh man, I am not even at 50% most days 🙂

  • Barb Flynn
    Reply

    Wow, I never thought about avoiding the gluten as a sacrificial prayer. Maybe it will help me to be better at avoiding it. I am sure going to try. And I don’t know if I could even put a percentage on how well I do avoid it. Good for you Allison.

    • ALLISON GINGRAS
      Reply

      Any time we have to deny ourselves of things we enjoy – like pasta or sweet bread (I am Portuguese this WAS a staple of my diet) – I feel like I have 2 options. I can be sad and cranky; or I can embrace this tiny cross (in comparison to other afflictions it is tiny lol) and offer as a sacrifice. I AM not perfect at it; and I then suffer for it! HELLO leftover Easter Chocolate Chip Cookies that my MIL makes twice a year and ARE soooo good! I know God doesn’t enough watching me suffer but instead is glorified when I overcome my trials with the help of His grace!! Thank you for sharing this Lenten Walk and Your thoughts Barb!

  • Judy
    Reply

    http://lightweigh.com

    Make sure to not add a T making weigh to weight

    • Allison
      Reply

      THAT is exactly what I did. Smart woman!

  • Jeanie Egolf
    Reply

    Thanks for posting this, Allison! My daughter just got confirmed, so this really touches a sensitive area of my heart. I really want to read more about this…I am so shocked. Let me make sure I understand this. The “young man in a suit” was one of the Confirmandi, right? How has he made it this far into the process? Surely, he will not be confirmed this year, right? He is clearly not ready.
    Did you speak to his parents or the parish priest or the DRE about him? Or are you the DRE? Did you finish the remaining 2 hours of the retreat? Did any of the other Confirmandi talk to you about this incident, to perhaps apologize for their peer?

    This post has really, really shaken me. I’m just so astounded and perplexed about this, this is why I want to know more. I need to somehow reconcile this in my mind and heart.

    • ALLISON GINGRAS
      Reply

      Sorry I am late responding Jeanie, notification of your comment went into my SPAM.

      Yes. He was one of the Confirmandi – the students probably 15 years old I believe. He was dressed up because he had been helping at a funeral that day – I am sure that fueled his emotions. It wasn’t someone he know but was familiar with the family, the deceased was a young father. OH he was confirmed!!! Sadly, I never even received an apology. It was brushed under the rug, and I was relieved of my contract to present the following year. Life is not fair sometimes. However, I took it as God’s gentle (ha ha) nudge to move on to where my true gifts lie – with adults 🙂

      This incident has taught me the necessity of prayer for others! Look more at the GOOD that God brought from it, then the vitriol that came from that confused young man.

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