As I previously mentioned, I was really looking forward to attending NCYC this year, during High School I never had the opportunity to attend due to the fact I played football and always had a game Friday night.
I was a little worried late last week that my expectations may have been set too high and that the experience would not have been as good as expected. Man was I wrong. From start to finish, It was so much more amazing and even spiritually overwhelming than I ever could have imagined.
After getting up extra early for Office of Readings in the refectory at 6 am, we boarded the buses for Kansas City. The first thing we attended was a general session which ended with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and led into a Eucharistic Procession through the streets of downtown Kansas City.
This was the first time I was able to participate in a Eucharistic Procession, and it was one of most overwhelming experiences of the weekend. As a seminarian I was towards the front of the procession, at one point I turned and looked back, and what I saw was such a beautiful site — 22,000 young Catholics pouring out into and filling the street in procession. It was so wonderful to see so many young people say, “This is my God, this is my Catholic faith, and I am not afraid, Christ Reigns in us, among us and through us.” In the middle of the day on a Friday several blocks of a busy city were shut down as these 22,000 young people stood up and made a public witness and testimony to their faith. When I looked back and saw those crowds I was so overwhelmed by the experience, especially because when I turned my head back around I saw the Blessed Sacrament, never has the connection between the Church (22,000 youth) and Christ (in the Blessed Sacrament) been so visible. In high school I used to lead a retreat for Confirmation students titled, “Talk the talk, walk the walk.” In this instance I saw young people quite literally walking the walk, and their action spoke so much louder than words.
For the majority of the next couple of days I served as a volunteer helping youth, distributing information on vocations, meeting people from all over the country, having a wonderful time, witnessing the church in action. I also had the opportunity to bowl with our Bishop, Bishop John Gaydos. Well, it wasn’t real bowling, but it was Wii bowling. It was a lot of fun, even if he beat me on both of the frames that we played. It was great to see the bishop at NCYC at the liturgies and visiting with the youth throughout the weekend.
The schedule was packed. We didn’t stop at all for either of the days. We slept on a gym floor at the pastoral center in Kansas Friday night and then woke up at 5 AM to get right back to work on Saturday. After Vespers on Saturday there was a little break for about half an hour when all the seminarians retreated to the volunteer center to rest momentarily before the closing liturgy.
Just like the Eucharistic procession, the closing Mass also proved to be an intense spiritual experience. I’m not sure I can properly describe what it looked like when we processed out of the tunnel into the Sprinter Center packed with youth all singing their hearts out. It was a sight to behold. This was the largest Mass I have ever attended.
After receiving communion it became apparent that there were not enough priests to distribute communion to all in attendance, so some of the seminarians were guided back to the altar to get a ciborium and then go distribute communion. Like, my diocesan brother, John Rockwell, I too went through a flurry of emotions. I wondering why I deserved this gift? In my feelings of unworthiness, all I had to look down and see the Body of Christ to realize how he makes us worthy. As I went on a long walk through the back of the stadium to get to my position, something our vocations director, Fr. Joe Corel, once told me popped into my head.
This summer on Camp Maccabee there was a discussion about “What super power you want?” To which Fr. Corel responded, “I’ve already got mine, turn bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ and give it to others.” As I weaved through stairwells and elevators I thought, that while I cannot turn bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, I can take it to others. Eventually I arrived at my location and distributed communion to a section of youth. I have been an Eucharistic minister in my parish for several years, but never have I been so spiritually fulfilled in this ministry. Watching youth (including a group from our diocese) continuously pour out of the stadium and into the concourse all to receive the body of Christ was amazing.
Then on the return to my seat I found myself crammed in an elevator with several bishops (including Bishop Gaydos), priests, and seminarians (including John Rockwell). Again I found myself asking, what did I ever do to deserve this? In that moment, I was no longer holding onto a ciborium filled with the Body of Christ, but rather I was gathered with the Church, the apostolic descendants of the apostles. To me this felt a little like Pentecost must have felt for the apostles. We were all crammed into a very small, hot space, we were all pretty tired, yet, I felt so filled with the Holy Spirit, just as the Apostles were on that day. In that short elevator ride, I could see and feel that indeed Christ REIGNS IN US, AMONG US, and THROUGH US.