by José Awais
This year’s MYO National Retreat was an event I had been looking forward to for months and it did not disappoint. The theme was “Only Jesus”. I was looking forward to seeing old friends that I had made at prior retreats and also to get closer to God. Having attended four previous national retreats and multiple regional retreats I had thought I knew what to expect from each day however I was pleasantly surprised each day. Every day was packed with activities which may seem exhausting from an outside view however each thing we did was unique and performed in an interesting way so that the long days flew by.
In the week we were given a talk about the Theology of the Body, presented by Jen Ricard and Seminarian Luke McNeil. The talk on the Theology of the Body was a great lesson on the teachings of the Bible and how our bodies were made in God's image. It elaborated on the story of Adam and Eve (found in Genesis) in more depth which helped us become more connected to our bodies since they are to be a place for God's presence. After this talk in smaller groups we elaborated on what it means to be a real man and how to be there for others along with being our best selves as teenage men.
We also later in the week took time out of our days to perform service projects around the community. As I went around a local park cleaning and tending to the land it allowed me to connect with the beautiful Earth that the Lord gave us. I also got to spend time with friends and bond with them doing something good for the environment, letting us all feel that we did something productive in the name of God. These activities were balanced with adequate free time to enjoy ourselves, followed by fun parties with singing and dancing. The week was fully worth it and has brought me closer to the Lord. I look forward to attending in the future as an advisor so that I may help the MYO flourish.
José Awais is in the MYO from Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Carmichael, California
by Sophie Cherfane
The National Maronite Youth Retreat which took place at Walsh University in N. Canton Ohio (7-12 July) is a spiritual week that I look forward to annually. I have been attending this retreat for three years, and through this organization I have felt my connection with the Lord strengthen. The speakers invited to talk to the youth all positively impacted me in a multitude of differing ways, I have grown not only in my faith and spirituality but as a person as well, and I will cherish the endless memories I have made here for a lifetime.
To begin, every day of this retreat a speaker came to have talks with the youth. Each speaker addressed certain topics relevant to the youth in regard to faith and the society we live in. I believe that these talks are vital because in today’s society it is becoming easier to stray from the Lord. Listening to all of the speakers opened my heart and mind to ways to avoid the negative temptations in our lives and how to take the path leading to the Lord. One concept that was equally vocalized by each speaker was the importance of strengthening your relationship with the Lord. A strong relationship with Him is what will truly make you content and at peace. Each speaker shared their own story and situation when strengthening their relationship with the Lord changed their life in a way that filled a void in their hearts. I felt that every talk opened my heart to the Lord even more and reiterated notions that I previously had. I knew that a strong relationship with the Lord is crucial to our lives but hearing all of the speakers share their stories and journeys to finding peace in the Lord helped strengthen a concept I previously had.
Also, attending the retreat has allowed me to grow in my faith and as a child of God. This retreat allows me to grow closer to God through everything that we do. Attending mass every day filled my heart with peace and happiness. Also, adoration and prayer that took place every day allowed for me to make time for the Lord. During our time of confession, we were given the chance to write small messages on pieces of paper and place them in a cross filled with holes. The holes represented gaps in our faith that long to be filled. This touched me because I feel as though throughout the course of the year, I become so preoccupied with external factors in my life that I do not take enough time to thank who is within my heart and pray to Him. This led to gaps in my faith that left me stressed and angry. Writing my message and intentions on this piece of paper and placing it in the cross allowed me to not simply fill in a hole in the cross. This helped me fix a part of my heart that was not fully letting the Lord in and trusting that He has a plan for me. After this, I felt a weight be lifted off my shoulders and peace flood over me. This week helped me strengthen my relationship with God by helping me remember the truly important thing in life, which is to take the spiritual path in order to live the way that the Lord has taught us to.
Finally, this retreat has given me memories that I will always carry with me throughout my life. I have also made so many friendships that have impacted my life in a positive way. Everyone I have met at the retreat has put a smile on my face and filled my heart with nothing but joy. I was able to meet youth from all over the country that share the same faith as me and many that share the same culture as well. From sports to dabke, every moment I spent with everyone I met and those I previously knew has been a moment I will always cherish.
I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend this retreat over the past three years because of the impact it has had on my life. I am thankful to all of the adults that made this retreat possible and those that planned a week full of fun and light. Also, I am thankful for the unconditional love that they show all of the youth at every retreat. This is a week that I look forward to every year, and a week that brings so much gaiety to not only my summer but my life.
Sophie Cherfane is in the MYO from St. Maron Church, Philadelphia PA