About two weeks ago, I was nervously preparing to go away for the whole weekend to a retreat called Antioch. I have done a few retreats before, and lately I have been on the leader side of things, so I was a little nervous to be on the side with a lack of information about the weekend. However, I was excited to go because it meant I would get a break from the craziness of college. At the same time, the amount of stress and homework I would have to come back to was enough to make me anxious and nervous about getting into that car with my friends and driving to a peacefully secluded church away from any cities and also away from my ever present responsibilities of school.
As we neared the church, I quieted my worried mind and tried to relax. The church and the area surrounding it were beautiful, and suddenly the magic that comes with any retreat started to work as so many strangers began to calm and be vulnerable to each other. Retreats usually have this effect; people bond in ways that are indescribable, and these relationships often grow into long-lasting friendships, or at least a sense of acquaintanceship. I began to realize that the people I thought had no idea who I was actually thought I was cool and wanted to be my friend! This was a highlight of the weekend, as I’ve never been cool before. I’m excited to continue to nurture these new friendships and get to know these people better!
I also grew in my relationship with God during the weekend. At some other retreats and conferences I’ve been to, I’ve had incredible experiences thanks to the Holy Spirit making my heart explode. I was careful not to assume that Antioch would be like those other experiences because I didn’t want to be disappointed. I’m glad I went in this way, because although many of the activities that happen on Antioch are similar to what happens on a typical retreat, I had a different experience this time. Other times, I have been brought to tears by the Eucharist in Mass, or have experienced friends speaking in tongues because they were so overcome by the Holy Spirit during Adoration. This time, I was overwhelmed not by a crazy reflection about my vocation or who I am as a person, but instead I experienced the beauty of affirmation.
I went into Antioch with many doubts and a lot of confusion. I went to confession and confessed that I wasn’t sure whether my sins were sins and I wasn’t certain about a lot of things in my life, my relationship with God being one of them. I was able to talk about these things with Father Joensen, and I saw God’s love. I saw God reaching out to me saying, “It’s okay. Don’t worry so much. Just trust me.” I am lucky in that I have access to reconciliation during the week at school, but I don’t take advantage of it enough. God knew that it would take me going to Antioch to feel the reassurance that He had been wanting to give me for so long. My experience during confession was something simple yet something so beautiful to me because it was something I’d been needing for a while.
While on Antioch, I wondered why God brought me there when He did. I was originally supposed on the retreat first semester, but I couldn’t because I got sick a few days before we were going to leave. I remember wishing that I could’ve gone first semester because Antioch would’ve helped me make friends and transition into college so much more easily. I admit that I actually was a little upset, but throughout the weekend, I realized that if I had gone first semester, my freshman experience could’ve been very different. I might not have gone through the depression and anxiety that I’ve been dealing with this year. Realizing this, I was even more upset that I didn’t go earlier, but then God revealed to me in affirmation that I needed to go through what I have. He gave me this cross for a reason, and His plan for me meant that I had to go to Antioch second semester even though I wished I could’ve gone sooner.
All in all, Antioch was a peaceful and relaxing experience. I made new friends and grew in relationships I already had invested in. God held my heart that weekend and reminded me that I was okay, and this simple reminder was just what I needed.