December 4, 2014

The Body of Christ, Heavenly Bread

This article has been translated from Spanish. Read the Spanish language version here.

Each year the Diocese of Eastern Massachusetts organizes spiritual retreats for boys and girls of all ages. With great enthusiasm the leadership of the Diocesan Youth Ministry provides room, board, and activities for middle and high school students, in a large, beautiful space in the middle of a forest with a lake. In addition, weeklong stays are offered to groups of youngsters and families in the winter and summer months. 

A week ago I had the good fortune of participating in a retreat offered to 7th and 8th grade students. My role was to serve as spiritual companion offering pastoral support to anyone who needed it. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised and impressed when I discovered that the retreat had been created, organized, and lead by the Diocesan Youth Council. Since our diocese is one of the largest not only in size, but also in number of congregations and cultures in the Episcopal Church, these retreats are very well attended. At this particular one, which started Friday afternoon and ended Sunday after lunch, there were 175 students, including 20 high school students in charge of logistics and activities. 

The theme of the retreat was the “Tree of Life.” First, participants were divided into rotating groups, so that they could get to know one another. Then, there were discussion groups in which were asked pre-planned questions around the notion of our lives as trees, all created by the students. We were then invited to write our answers on the colorfully sketched roots, trunks, branches, and leaves of the tree. There were 15 groups of girls and boys and four groups of accompanying adults. A youth leader facilitated each group. 

The walls of the room where the activities took place were lined with the most beautiful drawings that inspired smiles and praise for the imaginative, artistic, and interesting texts on the different parts of the trees. 

A party followed on Saturday afternoon featuring different styles of dance and music—all sung at the top of the kids’ voices—as they danced nonstop for the duration of the three hour get together. 

There was prayer before meals and activities, as well as prepared oral presentations to guide the activities, even a candle-lit vespers service accompanied by live soft music. The youth leaders organized all the spiritual practices, including the Sunday morning service and the closing of the retreat. Everything went smoothly and nothing was out of place or had to be rectified. Even the meals reflected the diversity of cultures represented in the retreat. 

In my role, aside from serving as a spiritual and pastoral companion, I also had the opportunity to learn to prepare the traditional communion bread of the monastic order of St. John the Evangelist which I used when I invited each participant to reflect on his or her personal understanding of the Communion sacrament. 

While serving at the altar and helping to offer the communion during Sunday worship, my soul was filled with great joy, particularly when I offered these yearning souls the nourishment of the Body and Blood of Christ. I felt in the deepest part of my self what was expressed in many different ways during the retreat: that individually, and as a community, we are integral parts of the Body of Christ, Christ our Heavenly Bread. 

Don't miss a blog post! Subscribe via email or RSS, using the grey box on the upper right.