Saturday, August 9, 2008

Wise Men

This time of year is a peculiar one.  There is an air of relaxation, informality.  Others in the parish office are on vacation.  Kids message me from beaches, camps, basements, and living rooms sharing their excitement or boredom. 
I find myself already in the very deep planning for the coming year.  The calendar is set.  Topics are chosen.  Action plans discussed and decided.  Research and background reading begins for those topics I'm not quite comfortable with yet.  Paperwork, photocopying, stapling, sorting, stopping for the bandage for yet another paper cut.  Calling to make reservations for picnic shelters, putt putt golf, and retreat centers.  Updating websites, creating new blogs,  and adding to email lists.
While hectic, slightly overwhelming, this time is a mixture of the familiar, the new, and even a bit magical.  The new ideas float around all the leadership.  The excitement of new freshmen joining the group buzzes through the youth.  The reality of the chaos of the year has not yet caused me to push aside the well thought out plans and lofty goals.
This year we are trying some new things.  Our Sunday Youth Groups are being based on the Lectionary readings.  This means our topics derive from what that Sunday's Mass readings contain.  I've gone through September so far in detail and found plenty to work with so I have great hopes for this.
Our Wednesday night Bible studies will go off of other books in the Bible as they used to be on the coming Sunday's Gospel reading.  Our first book to tackle will be the highlights of 1 John.  A personal favorite and no one in our leadership had any other preferences. 
The fall retreat is quite early which means I only have two weeks of 'normal' youth group before we go.  That will be a challenge, administratively, but I think there's great advantage to it.
We are moving some things to the web to help (hopefully) reduce planning meetings.  I set up blogs to help plan our Youth Groups and Bible studies.  Here's hoping that it works.  The leaders need to form the habit of checking the blogs, but it is the price to pay for shorter leadership meeting.
With all the work, all the aspirations for the year, I oddly find myself thinking of the three wise men or kings.  Yes, they shouldn't be showing up until January, but the new year makes me think of them.  So little is known, thus leaving my imagination to fill in the rather gaping holes in their stories. 
I would like to think that they did not really know what they were doing when they followed that star.  Yes, they knew how to read the stars; knew it was unusual; divined that a king was come.  But I don't think they knew to expect a king in a manger with a mother no older than the girls I work with here.  Yes, they knew how to survive the journey.  But I don't think they expected the company.  After all, would not a king or a great wise man wish to make as grand an impression as possible? Why then would he choose to travel with two others that could diminish his grandeur?  Yes, they brought gifts fit for a king.  But I don't think they knew how fitting they were for the small babe in swaddling clothes.
These men, with aspirations, hopes, and an idea where they were going found themselves lost.  Their plans failed.  They were surprised by companions, the babe, the angel.  They returned a different way, changed.
Each year, I start with my plan.  I know who is on leadership, I know what to expect.  Then come the freshmen, then comes the new volunteer forms.  Then come the crises, the normal ups and downs.  Then come the moments of grace and devastation the teens experience.  The plan changes.  The leadership team changes.  I drop my expectations.
Each year I turn that page of the calendar from May to June and with it comes the realization that I, too, have changed.  And it is as it should be.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

When Loves Collide

Last night was the meeting where our young adult group hashes out the quarterly plan of events.  Imagine my joy when a longstanding member, who apparently knows me well, offers a fantastic suggestion for November 4.  The difficulty with that day is that we want to have our usual Tuesday night meeting, but as it is election day, most young adults have to head to the polls after work.  Thus we need to find an activity that is easy for people to drop in after the official start time.

So when it was suggested, "Hey, why don't we have a West Wing night? You can pick the episodes and we can discuss the issues in them." I nearly fell on the floor in delight.

West Wing was a sacred show for me.  I never, before or since, have been as avid a viewer of any show.  The combination of great characters, amazing bravery in tackling issues, and often even incorporating faith issues got me hooked.  I look forward to deciding which episode(s) to show.  I've already got a few floating in my mind that would be good ones...

..."The Supremes" - a good one with Glen Close that looks at the powers of the Supreme Court, compromise, idealism, healthy dialogue, and that glass ceiling my mom did her paper on for her MA.

...An episode with the Judge Mendoza character - shows immigration issues, prejudices, what do we value in the justice system.

...One of the key episodes discussing the ramifications of Bartlett's MS - Should McCain be elected, his age begs questions of how would we deal with an ill president, what should the public know, how should power be distributed.

...One of the episodes dealing with Zoe, Charlie, and the threats made on the lives of those in the White House - As my mom pointed out, should Obama be elected, there will be those that due to racism or other prejudices will be violently displeased.

...The episode done in response to 9/11 - this episode was brilliant, in my opinion.  It brought out the underlying prejudices and presumptions even the educated have in regards to Arab Americans.  It dove into the historical, political, and ideological differences involved in our current world struggles.  Plus, it gave Stockard Channing a beautiful piece.

So I shall continue to ponder, have an excuse to spend a lazy Saturday watching West Wing DVDs, and join my two loves of ministry and West Wing...even if it is just for one night.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

More on WYD

While I don't normally borrow from other websites that I write and maintain, this post from my official youth ministry website for the church applies to this blog too.  So without further ado, here's the post.

When WYD Meets the World

The return from WYD, once the laundry is done and the pile of messages and emails are answered, becomes slightly surreal.  The experiences that are so outrageous - sitting in a racetrack with 450,000 people for Mass…talking with people from Tonga, California, and the United Arab Emirates simultaneously…bundling up in hats and scarves and space blankets while we eat dinner in a field where Aussie Rules Football, soccer, and dancing are all going on…watching the Pope arrive in a boat-acade that floats past the Sydney Opera House…watching his welcome address on a cell phone of a Sydney-sider while our radios provide the audio…

To explain to someone who hasn’t sat in a field on the other side of the world, sweltering, frozen, drenched, or sunburned, it is is near impossible.  Why you would ever wish to do such a thing?  Moreover, why you would want to take a group of high school youth and young adults to such an event.

Then there is the popular media coverage…the usual coverage occurs regarding where the Pope went & what he said.  The commentary appears saying shouldn’t the Church use its resources for other good deeds?  Then there’s the attacks that occur on the Pope’s message or past deeds, the Church’s teachings or past deeds, the youth themselves.

Simply put, I truly believe that WYD is a worthwhile and incredibly value event.  It is worth the two years of planning and mild ulcers.  It is worth the challenges the planning committee faces.  It is worth the sweltering heat of Rome in 2000, the downpour in Toronto in 2002, the chilly mist of Cologne in 2005, and the winter of Sydney in 2008.  It is worthwhile because the participants hear words of wisdom and inspiration from bishops from around the world.  It is worthwhile because connections are forged between people that would otherwise never happen.  Many who went to Germany in 2005 are still in contact with their host families and friends made around the world.  Participants see what it truly means to be part of a universal Church - faces from the world over, different ideas, a variety of spiritualities, challenges to their faith journey, encouragement to grow, and a greater sense of their Catholic identity and their personal identity.  Those who go on pilgrimage return on mission.  The host community sees a positive gathering of young people with their enthusiasm, faith, and sense of community providing a boost. 

I could easily go on and on regarding WYD.  I’ve been to four.  Two of those were trips where I led a group.  The best way to see the value of WYD is to go.  Plan for WYD 2011 in Madrid, Spain.