I’m not sure what exactly prompted it this week, but for the first time in a very long time, I have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on my experiences in San Diego in the summer of 2008. Even more than that, I would say its the first time in an even longer time that I have reflected on the experience in an extremely positive way. Which is weird considering how important summer project was for me at the time, and how important it was in my conversion to the Catholic Faith.
For a long time I have been pretty negative towards Evangelical Christianity. Obviously I used to think that it was pretty dang awesome. But having been Catholic now for almost four years (wow, has it been that long?!), it is hard for me to remember what it was really like. I look at the incredible prayer tradition of the Catholic Church, the vast riches of the lives of the Saints, the depth of the theology and spiritual disciplines, and I wonder how the heck as an Evangelical I survived, and how the heck I could proclaim that Catholicism was anything but Divine.
But this week I began to contemplate how pivotal Summer Project was in bringing me to Catholicism. For starters, going on summer project was a huge leap of faith. It was a terrifying act of faith, trusting God when I personally had less than $500 to my name, to raise the funds I needed. It was an act of defiance against my parents, who supported me but did not give me their blessing. It was most of all a free choice to follow God wherever he was going to lead me. At the time it took great trust to follow him across the country, but within a few months of returning I was going to need to trust him to take me across an entirely different map. Summer Project infused me with the grace to follow God, not the whims of the world and the people around me.
Secondly, summer project taught me the importance of silent prayer and meditation. My most memorable and cherished moments on project were actually our NORs (Nights of Reflection). For a few hours in the evening we would be free to just go somewhere and pray, journal, and read Scripture. I would often go to the marina on Mission Bay or sit along the sea wall, or near the end, go up to La Jolla and jump down a steep rocky, slippery cliff and jump out to some large slippery boulders and sit out in the middle of the sea and just gaze out, adoring God. These moments of solitude were the prelude to the prayerful moments I would go through that would lead me to the fullness of truth, and were a foreshadowing of my kneeling before Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
Thirdly, summer project intensified my desire for community, to be a part of a unified body. It ignited my thirst for the communion of the saints. On summer project we relied on each other in all things. The graces that one received were shared with all. Those who had enough shared with those who didn’t. Those who had success encouraged those who did not. We prayed for each other in all things and we offered what we had to God for the benefit of all. It was this concept that drove me to search for community when I returned to North Dakota.
Fourthly, summer project is where Catholicism really began to wedge itself into my life. Sure, Megan had told me a few things before about how Catholics didn’t worship Mary, but asked her to pray for them, in the same way I asked my friends to pray for me, but it was really summer project that injected Catholicism into my heart. Multiple people on project were ex-Catholics who had decided to “accept Christianity” instead. A lot of the people that I met on campus and the beach were Catholics and they knew next to nothing about Jesus and it ticked me off. Interestingly enough, out of the three people I met during outreach that were the most memorable, two were Catholic. First was Dave who I wrote about here while on project and here close to the Easter Vigil. Dave is a Catholic guy we met who wasn’t like the rest of the Catholics we met. He was feisty. He argued with Allen and I for a long time that first day. He made a point to invite us to go have beers and discuss stuff with him after he was done with class. Of course we had to decline as alcohol was banned while we were on project. He then went out of his way to find us every single week when we were on campus. We shared our story about him every week when we debriefed back at the Santa Clara. Soon, everybody on project was praying for the guy, and soon, there were more and more people coming with us to talk sense into this guy. It even came to the point where one week, Allen and another guy were talking to him, and every so often the other guy would make an excuse to leave, then call his pastor back home to get a surefire response to Dave’s latest argument. It was frustrating at the time, but looking back, it is hilarious how flustered we got when confronted with truth. Dave was really excited when he found out about my conversion. I lost his number and haven’t been able to keep in touch with him, but I know that we pray for each other in the Mass. The second guy who impressed me was Ricardo. Ricardo was the only Catholic I met on project that I didn’t try to convert. I will never forget the look on Brandy’s face at the end of our conversation. I think that we were both unsure of what to do next since Ricardo was Catholic but also pretty damn amazing. I for one was uncomfortable with the idea of a Catholic who knew Jesus but we left well enough alone. Overall I left project with a pretty negative view of Catholics in general and Catholicism in particular. But it is better than the alternative, which would have been to have left project apathetic towards Catholicism. My attitude is what eventually forced me to actually examine Catholicism.
In the end, summer project was an amazing experience for me, without which I would not know Jesus the way I do now. Summer project prepared me in so many ways to appreciate every facet of the deposit of faith that Christ entrusted to his Apostles, the deposit that is safeguarded by their successors in this very moment. The more I consider summer project, the more I am convinced that my conversion towards Catholicism began the first day that I arrived, that no matter what events would transpire after project I had already passed the point of no return in arriving home.
I am going to begin praying again for each of the people that I talked to while on project, those who I remember by name, and the rest in a general way. In a special way, I am going to begin praying very hard for each of the students who went on project with me that summer because they were and are a very important part of who I was and am and I desire for them to experience the graces that the Church offers to each and every soul.
If you want to read more about the experiences I had while on project, check out the archives on the right side of the page. All posts from May 28, 2008 to August 4, 2008 were written while I was on project.
God is with us
In his loving arms
We are safe from harm
Blessed with his Almighty love
May you find strength from him above