By Cathrine Chalupka
After going through tough times – physically and mentally, I finally managed to graduate successfully. Then, I prepared the stuff I needed for my trip to the Philippines. I was so looking forward to immerse into the different areas of fulltime pastoral work in the community. I truly could not believe how time flew so fast before this travel plan. Surely, after all those challenges of the past months, the promise of an experience to encounter God again made it all worth it. My “passion” experience cannot compare to what Jesus Christ went through.
So i arrived in the Philippines and found myself in Cavite for the World Singles Congress. The first impressions were amazing. The atmosphere was so lively, bubbly and full of positive spirit. I really missed this. Europe is a busy place where people give themselves so little room for happy times except when they “treat” themselves. People laughing, mingling, getting to know each other, praying – wow!
Just like in past events, I never set expectations. I just ready myself and observe the activities. I open myself and my heart, emptying myself so Christ can refill it. I wanted so much to make this a true encounter with Christ. I listened attentively in session per session. While I could relate to the theme of the sessions, I really did not feel anything in the beginning. But then again, do we always have to “feel” something?
My moment with God came during the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on the 2nd night of the Congress. Fr. Arlo showed us a video. This was the encounter I was waiting to happen. The video told the story of an Olympic athlete who trained really hard and qualified for the competitions. When the race started, there was a really good chance for him to actually win the race. He gave everything and ran as fast as he could. Suddenly he felt something twitching in his leg: he was injured. He fell down while all the other competitors passed him and he started to cry. After all he has been through he wouldn’t be able to finish the race. He told himself “NO! I will finish this race!” In pain, he rose again and started limping. He was going to finish the race no matter what. It was breathtaking – the audience watched the limping runner go after the finish line when a tall man fought his way from the audience through the security to the racing track. He made his way to the runner. As this tall man touched the shoulder of the runner, the runner broke down on the tall man’s chest crying, asking why this was happening to him. The tall man just replied, “Son, you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to finish the race”. “ “I have to, dad. I have to finish the race” the runner said. “Then, son, we will finish this together. We will finish this race together.” So the runner put his arm around his dad’s neck and both continued the way to the finish line. As soon as the runner saw the finish line, he let go of his dad and limped into the finish line. He was able to finish the race after all.
This true story really struck me. I could identify myself with the runner so much. After all the stress I went through these past months, I often found myself awake in the morning praying to the Lord begging for strength to “survive” the day. I felt so burned out. And this video expressed what I felt while I was going through this tough time – God carrying me and saying “we will finish this together”. I felt so blessed. It was an experience that kept me in constant reflection.
On the last day of the congress we were asked to think about what our Dare-to-Live convictions. At first I wasn’t so sure about my convictions. I’ve always tried to live my life to the fullest. Because of my job, I learned how to value and appreciate every moment in life. So I started reflecting about my “DARE-TO-LIVE conviction”. I might be one of those people who needs days until they realize things for themselves because I did find my conviction statement after all: Dare to LISTEN.
Since I am a dominant person, I am used to just listen to myself and what I think is best even when I know that I should actually listen and pray more to God. After all, He is going to be the one to carry me when I am weak, when I am hurt and most especially when I feel like the world falls on my head. But this “Dare to LISTEN” conviction doesn’t only mean to listen to what God wants to tell me in tough times. I think what’s most important is that, despite being surrounded by all the commotion around me, I will try to seek the Lord in the midst of all those. I will seek the Lord in the soft breeze. I often tend to forget that. One should always come back to oneself and reflect, seeking the Lord in the soft breezes. He would tell me to trust Him more, to let Him be in control of the things around me instead of me trying to control everything. He would also tell me to pray more, to share my insecurities and my fears and hurts with Him so He can be the shelter for me, so He can console me because He loves me, because He wants me to be happy, because He is Love and HE wants the best for me. If I listened more, I wouldn’t be scared of certain things. I would dare doing more, and live more, that is, more than the way I am living this life now.
And so this year, I will DARE TO LISTEN for this dares me to LIVE MORE.