I see a generation rising up to take its place: Reflections of an Awakening patriarch

This past weekend was Longhorn Awakening 51. For those of you who may not know, LA is a retreat program put on each semester by college students for college students in the Austin area, serving primarily the University of Texas and, more specifically, the University Catholic Center. It’s held in Jarrell, Texas at the Cursillo Center, named after the Cursillo movement, the movement on which the entire Awakening program is based.

Anyway, background information aside, I went on LA43: Here I Am. So considering that we’re on LA51, and that I’ve staffed every LA since then (and then some), that ages me in Awakening years. So while patriarch may not necessarily be the right word, it was the best word I could come up with at the time of this original posting. For me to return for my 10th Awakening (9th staffing, plus the one I went on as a retreatant), is a pretty safe indicator that this program means a lot to me. And I know this stuff like the back of my hand. Which was basically the basis of my role this semester: support for any issues that may arise. In any case, without major contact with the retreatants and a role relatively detached from the retreat, this weekend, I got the opportunity to basically watch things happen as an outsider. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have friends there. But the Awakening community as I “grew up” in it is long gone, and this is a new generation.

So there’s this one song, Hosanna by Hillsong United. For the last few Awakenings, it’s gotten to me every time it’s played. Mostly because of the one line I quoted in the title: I see a generation rising up to take its place with selfless faith. Last year, when I was one of the co-coordinators, I got a little choked up hearing this song while looking at the retreatants, and that’s who I associated that line with. But this time, watching the staff while this song played got to me, and got to me hard.

This is a new generation of staffers, a new generation of students at the UCC, and it became painfully obvious that the community that gave me that support and love to bring me to where I am today is long gone. But this is a realization that I come to basically every time I do anything related to the Catholic Center at this point. The difference with this one was that I saw past the faces. Yes the people have changed, the people have graduated and moved on, but that community, that SPIRIT has not changed. That love transcends the corporeal and has not left with the people through which I originally felt this love and support. That love is here. That love is now. That love has just been given a chance to spread while we continue to fuel the fire here. And it was the strangest feeling that, while I may not have had direct contact with each person when they were a retreatant, I was part of the staff that helped light the candle for each of these people, and now they’re the ones doing the lighting.

And it was this feeling that just gave me a sense of peace that I have not felt on that site in a while. I mean, there were times when I was just like “Oh [expletive]. Something didn’t get done/someone effed up/etc.” But as a whole, watching the retreatants, the staffers, and the leadership, it became very clear that my time here is over. This isn’t an emo/bitter “I’m done with Awakening” rant as I’ve done in the past with more stressful positions. If something so happens and someone special to me needs my help in some capacity, I’m not closing the door to coming back. However, the attachment, this compulsion to staff Awakening that I have had since my freshman year, is now gone. I can securely walk away knowing that the Awakening spirit is still going strong. The contributions of each and every Awakening staff has lit a fire in these people that shines as bright as ever. And while the logistics of some Awakenings are better than others, LA is in good hands…it’s in God’s hands…we as the Mystical Body of Christ are simply the vessels through which the Holy Spirit can work to spread God’s love and lift up the retreatants through our various forms of prayer so that they may reach their own reconciliation with God, discern His call for each of them, and become more resolute and committed to their faith.