Someone asked me what I hoped to get out of this trip.
I know this sounds hokey but I really don't have expectations. I think God will surprise me.
You know what's great (so far, anyway) about a trip like this? Spending the day with a bunch of visibly Catholic kids. Visibly. Enthusiastically. And still normal, 21st Century kids.
Over the course of the day, here's what I experienced:
Teens committed enough to marching for life that they'd sleep--or not--on a bus in order to get to DC. Teens who took it very seriously when a Dominican priest pointed out that they'd be cold and miserable, but that the only way such an evil would be conquered would be with sacrifice--who embraced their upcoming winter suffering with joy and even a certain competitiveness.
Mass at the Basilica Shrine, the crypt chapel filled to overflowing, and when mass was ended, teenagers still on their knees in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. For a long time.
A bookseller's stuffed to the gills with teenagers anxious to buy stuff that proudly proclaims them Catholic; one young man excitedly telling Sister "I thought it was about time I got a rosary."
Teens who automatically genuflect on entering a chapel when the Blessed Sacrament is present.
A teen who wanted his picture made with the great Dominican saints on the wall of the chapel at the Dominican House of Studies--because his patron is one of them.
A college sudent, waxing eloquent about the chapel at the Dominican House of Studies: It's the most beautiful chapel ever!
Teens who had to be hustled away from the reliquary in the monastery because they were so absorbed in finding out what saints were represented. You do realize,Dr. Barbara, how wrong it is to be hurrying us when we are looking at relics, right?
Snowball fights. (We don't get enough snow in Tennessee-and these young folks are still--in fact--young folks with a lot of enthusiasm and energy...) And, as it turns out, a few memorable falls in the snow.
A young woman in the postulancy for the Dominicans who--when her friends saw her after long absence, let out a whoop, ran to gret her and hugged her into near-oblivion. Last I heard them they were exchanging conversations, one about an upcoming marriage, the other about the day, when she might receive her habit.
Curiosity about the the life of their Dominican sisters--real interest in the convent, even playing along with the newly minted tradition (and completely faux) of first making a visit to the Blessed Sacrament and,on the way out, getting a banana from the Mother Superior --stamped with Our Lady Queen of Preachers....(I suspect it was either unload the bananas or eat banana bread for six months--anyway, the banana pudding, made up in the room, was terrific).
And after all that, a contingent still ready to make a pilgrimage to the local Franciscan monastery--or the Holocaust Museum. No whining. No vulgarity. No snide comments. Just a lot of youth and joy.
In fact, this is the easiest day I've ever had chaperoning. The closest thing I had to hard duty was to break up an incipient conspiracy to skip the concert tonight in favor of going to Compline a the Dominican Chapel.
There is something different about people for whom Christ is light, for whom religion is real and present. Some of these folks will lose their faith in college--it's predictable--but almost as predictable, they will come back, because they have a sense that there's more to life than just themselves. A lesson well learned, and so early. Like the rest of the world, these kids understand they have a hole at their very center--unlike the rest of the world, they have begun to understand that only God can fill it.