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A letter to the M28 family

November 18th, 2015

 

Put 40 acquaintances and strangers on a farm in rural Pennsylvania for 48 hours and what do you get? A Christian rock band, “Ride that Pony” and a burning sense of what it means to be a family.

 

Over the weekend, I took part in Manresa 28, a spiritual retreat focusing on the notion that we, as human beings, are from love, of love, and for love.

 

The weekend consisted of music and prayer as well as games and a countless amount of time spent on personal and group reflections.

 

I signed up for this retreat because my dear friend, Ariel, wouldn’t let me miss it for the world. She texted me every morning after sign up began and told me it’ll be worth my while to go and experience what M28 had to offer.

 

Although I had heard good things from a variety of people, I was skeptical. How would there possibly be enough time to finish all the homework for the following week? Would I maintain the presence needed to fully take advantage of the retreat’s values?

 

It didn’t matter, really. I came back with a newfound peace as well as a new slogan, “It’ll get done.”

 

At the beginning of the retreat, I sat in a room full of people who may or may not have seen me around campus. Some were friends, others were friendly faces, but there were seldom people that I truly knew.

 

This was the first time in two years where I was completely out of control and without knowledge of what was going to happen next. The team members and Campus Ministry staff set the schedule, but to the retreat participants, not knowing was the main intention.

 

Throughout my time at John Carroll, I have held many leadership positions, so you can imagine my hesitance while I looked about the retreat center completely not knowing what would happen next.

 

I was soon put at ease, though, as activities began and I was forced to be fully present.

 

After locking my phone away in my room and introducing myself to new people, I was overcome with a powerful sense of contentment.

 

We were divided into small groups where we could deeper reflect on the values of “The First Principle and Foundation,” an Ignatian practice.

 

In my small group led by two strong, intelligent individuals, Brandon and Mara, I was challenged to practice what the Jesuits truly embody: to understand we are without limit and all things are gifts from God; we  must hold ourselves in balance and not have fixed desires on materialistic things, and our only desire should be to choose what better leads us to a spiritual life.

 

Manresa was a beautiful reminder of the neighborhoods and families many of us come from and the love that is there; we were challenged to understand the idea that each of us are “of love,” consumed with personal talents and initiatives that embody God; and Manresa reminded each of us that who we are and the beauty we possess within our hearts is why we are “for love.”

 

It’s difficult to explain to others how this retreat has the ability to put one on a “Manresa high,” but I urge students to take time and go on this retreat.

 

I went into the weekend nervously stressing about all of the homework I’d have to finish for the week, and I came back with a euphoric sense of contentment.

 

I now have an unexplainable ability to channel my anxieties and negative emotions into a positive way of thinking, and although there is still much to do, I am maintaining the optimism and hopefulness I experienced over the weekend.

 

To my M28 family–thank you for giving me a chance to find what once was lost. Thank you for taking me in with open arms and allowing me to load you up with my heavy heart. Thank you for lightening my load and helping me breath.

 

A room full of randomly selected people became my family in a matter of 48 hours. They are truly special people–from love, of love, and for love–and so are you.