Both the boys' and girls' camps made it to the summit Tuesday morning full of energy. An outsider looking in would have been dumbfounded. There was no music, cell phone service, comforts, or digital screens. On the top of Hunter Mountain there was none of what the world could offer, and yet there was true among 40 young adults. There was joy because a challenging goal had been set, it was engaged with courage and perseverance, and it was achieved together. We did not leave St. Patrick's just to hike--a worthy goal in itself--but with Psalms we can say, we came to climb the Lord's mountain and to stand in His holy place, that is to witness the miracle of the Eucharist, again and yet anew, on the top of God's creation.
Monday brought the first full day of Universitas activities to the St. Patrick's Retreat Center in East Durham, NY. The group began with Mass in the chapel on the hill followed by breakfast and the first conference given by Fr. Mark Pilon. Fr. Pilon, who is on faculty at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College, focused his talk on the theme of "Derangement" drawing inspiration from a number of sources including, Catholic novelist, Walker Percy, St. John Paul the Great, Cardinal Newman and the Church's deposit of faith: Scripture and Tradition. Fr. Pilon spoke about the need to recognize the growing societal attack not only against the faith, but also natural law as a consequence of man's growing separation from God. The more that man abandons the faith, the more he losses a true grasp of the human reality and especially man's dignity as child of God.
After Fr. Pilon's talk, the group packed for an overnight hike on Hunter Mountain. Once packs, rations, sleeping bags, and other essentials were divvied up we hit the road for the Hunter Mtn. Trail head. Upon reaching the trail head, the group split into a boys' camp and girls' camp and set out on opposite ends of the trail loop hoping to meet up the next morning on Hunter's peak for the celebration of Mass.
Both groups made it to their camping destinations before nightfall, where they enjoyed a relaxing evening of prayer, campfire songs, and the cuisine of MRE's. Regardless of the difficulty of the climb and physical discomfort from blisters, scrapes, or aching muscles, the spirit of joy was high from having set out towards a difficult good and having accomplished it together.
The third annual Universitas kicked off on Sunday night as 30 young adults arrived at the St. Patrick's Retreat Center in East Durham, NY. With the arrival of many "veterans" to Universitas, there were also many new faces, coming from as far as Canada, South Carolina, and Illinois.
The evening began with a Holy Hour in the chapel followed by the concluding vespers for the Easter Season. After the final benediction there was dinner in the hall. Dinner easily transitioned into a pleasant evening spent around the first bonfire of the event where participants and religious enjoyed music and s'mores. The first night at St. Patrick's appropriately concluded as the fire dwindled down to embers with a traditional Irish hymn to Our Lady, "Golden Rose".
After all of the groups arrived last night here at the St. Patrick Retreat Center, our first day here at Universitas began with Morning Prayer and Holy Mass. Fr. Brian presided over the Mass and in his homily about today's Gospel focused on Christ's mandate to "keep the Commandments". Following an idea of the Chilean saint, Alberto Hurtado, Father said that the mission of the University student is to "make things happen" (realizarse). This fits perfectly with Christ's call to "keep" the Commandments. Memorizing the Commandments in order is not enough. Saying "those are good rules" is not enough. Expecting others to obey them is not enough. Each one of us is called to act upon them if we truly love Christ; if we really want to embrace a full Christian life.