We, as Catholics, are privileged to experience the love of Christ in many ways. None of us worship the same, none of us pray the same, and none of us find God in the same way as any other human being. I believe this to be true for two reasons. The first is that we were born with free will, therefore we can make choices on how we find, encounter, and experience God. The second is that we all are unique. None of us have the same day-to-day meetings, thoughts, family backgrounds, stories of encountering God—the list could go on and on.
Some of us find God in a direct and passionate way outdoors, some of us through traditional prayer, some of us from journaling our prayers. Some of us find Him in the people we surround ourselves with, and even through encountering complete strangers. There are more than a million ways to encounter our great and wonderful God. Last weekend, our Youth Team had the opportunity to attend the SEEK Conference hosted by FOCUS Missions in Indianapolis. During the weekend we heard various keynote speakers, attended mass every morning with over 17,000 other Catholics, and also had the opportunity for adoration. I must speak truthfully that this conference was a challenge for me. It was unlike anything I have ever been to or experienced before. I often felt out of place and small in rooms full of people who were clearly enjoying themselves and getting everything they could out of the conference. However, the one thing to which I looked forward, despite my struggles, was the opportunity for adoration.
I have not been to an organized adoration since my underclassman years at John Carroll University. When I was a freshman and sophomore, campus ministry would hold praise and worship once a month and my favorite of these were always the nights with adoration. I was sad to see the student run event start to struggle and eventually come to an end during my junior year.
One can only imagine my disappointment when at the beginning of the adoration procession during SEEK, I got lost. With 17,000 people, I got overwhelmed in the grandeur and the performance that it was. All the while feeling as though I was doing something wrong, as everyone around me was singing their hearts out, crying and praying as hard as they could. I felt like I was in the ocean and every time I came close to participating, a wave came to crash over me sending me back under the water.
At grand conferences like SEEK, there comes a point in adoration in which the priest will take the Blessed Sacrament and process it around the hall. This is meant to be an opportunity for each individual to have a close visual experience with Jesus. It was at this point that I became unfocused, and instead of focusing on myself, I was distracted by everyone around me. Because of my distraction, I decided to put my head into my hands and close my eyes. When I did, without any effort, I was sitting in the John Carroll chapel all alone with the monstrance sitting gently on the altar. If I had to explain this experience, the closest I think I can get is comparing it to a dream. In dreams, certain details of people and the environment stick out more than others. In the simplest of places, I cried, completely overwhelmed by how God always knows what we need at the moment we need it the most.
I believe that God had a specific message to give me on that night, and it was loud and clear. We are never less than if we do not find Him and experience Him in the same ways as the other people around us. Whether we find Him in a convention hall in a grand way or in the silence and the simplicity of a little chapel hours-away; this does not make us small, less lovable, less Catholic, unqualified, or even out of place. In fact, it makes us the complete opposite. It makes us human, unique, loved for our individuality and adored even in our distraction and struggle. During this time in the Catholic Church and in our world, we will all do well to remember that we were created to be and to worship however God is calling us to, and we are not less than because of that call.