Last summer I went and stayed at an all-girls Catholic sleep-away camp. For a week.
Honestly, it was probably because they were short on helpful adult-chaperone-ladies, so I was asked by someone who knew someone and then, wouldn’t you know it: bam. A week in a cabin full of 13/ 14 year-old girls.
Now, my standards of living are admittedly not super high, so I was OK with a bunk bed (top! bunk! 😉 ) and camp showers and girls catching frogs and everything. (Although I did yell, “Not in the cabin! DO NOT bring it in the cabin! Leave it outside!” about the frog. So, I guess I’m an adult now).
I remember on one of the last days, though, I stood in the doorway of the camp-chapel and had a small conversation with the gentle-mouthed, servant-hearted priest who was “father” to the camp of girls.
All these lovely, fragile girls. Some of them with such “grown up” or tough exteriors but, really, inside…still such girls. Already they were dealing with so much pain. Divorce, self-abuse, etc., all the while so young and still so unsure of themselves.
The wonderful chaplain said, gently, that there was probably a time when parents stayed together and families were intact and communities attended church together where a camp song about Jesus around a fire was all a girl needed. But, now, in the face of all they were dealing with, they needed all we have: adoration, confession, daily mass, etc. So, we did our best.
I think about this sometimes in ministry. There was a time when what we offered was merely a puzzle piece in a gigantic puzzle linking faith and life and love together. Now, though…what we give might be all someone ever gets.
And so, I feel: go big or go home. Bring out the most touching prayers, the rawest stories of saints and sanctity, adoration and confession and all the other big-gun stuff that used to be reserved for, I don’t know, seminaries and convents.
And make shallow entry points too, sure, and have Latin mass too, sure, and have the full spectrum of allowed prayer and penance too.
Because the hurting world needs love, you guys. It needs it real deep.