Monday, July 23, 2012

The Climb

Every other year, I host "Adventure Trip".  In 2010, we took 15 participants, and this year, I led a trip of 30.  We doubled our numbers as teens are more and more hungry for a connection to their faith and church community.  I do have to say, that the experience certainly lived up to its name.  6 days of intense hiking, climbing, rafting and sleeping in tents in the rugged rocky mountains makes for an incredible opportunity to spread the faith.  We stayed in Groom Texas at the sations of the cross.  If you're ever in the panhandle near Amarillo Tx, I CERTAINLY would say it's worth the stop.  We celebrated mass under the stars, in a tomb, with some sisters, on top of a mountain and finally at the sataions of the cross overlooking the passion of Christ. 

The highlight of the trip is climbing Mt. Elbert.  From a distance, you look at the mountain with a base at 9,000 feet elevation as it rises to 14,433 making it the second highest in the continental USA just under Mt. Whitney which stands tall at 14,505. 

 When we first explained the mountain we'd be climbing, most people wouldn't really grasp the full challenge of the hike.  They might reflect on some of the more physically challenging things such as a basketball or football game... maybe some other 6 mile hike they had done.  They have a sense of confidence that puts the challenge of the mountain as challenging but do-able. 

When driving to the mountain and looking at a distance, it seems much higher than you thought but really understanding the challenge is still a little distance.  Others can talk about their experience and share how challenging it is going to be, but really understanding the challenge is still close to impossible. 

After mile 1, breathing hard, feeling the pain through your entire body and realizing you haven't even reached tree line is a bit discouranging.  Some are ready to quit, while others are up for the challenge ahead.  One foot in front of the other - and with every foot of elevation gain the challenge is harder and harder.  Mile 2 is even tougher after gaining 2000 feet elevation and above tree line with even less oxygen.  The hardest part is realizing you're only half way there and so far, it's just been a beast!  By mile 3, you're just about to hit what you think is the summit.  It's extremely difficult to breathe.  After about 4 steps, you want to stop and break but you tell yourself to just keep moving.  You crest what you thought was the peak and realize you're not even close as you look another mile ahead to see what you think is finally the end.  People are the size of tiny little ants and you realize you have much farther than you were aniticipated going.  Despite this, you've come so far and can't turn back now even though everything in your body tells you that it was be so much easier if you did.  Mile 4 - Every step feels like 1000 bricks on your entire lower half.  The air is so thin and you feel like you are trying to breathe out of a coffee stir.  It'd be so easy to quit, but as people are headed down, they're saying you're almost there.  Just push on and you'll make it to the top. 

After 4 hours and 5,000 feet elevation gain you finally are 100 yards away!  Its right there!  All you want to do is sprint up to the top, but you're so beat down and warn out that even a flat surface is too much to handle.  Despite the desire to speed up your pace and summit quickly, you're not even physically able to do so.  You press on - one step at a time at the pace of a snail and are ok with that.  You reach the top and aren't sure if you want to laugh, celebrate or cry.  You've finally made it!  You've conquered the mountain while at the same time, it conquered you.  It's like you've become one with it.  You've never seen such a beautiful site while on top of the world, and yet getting there was so unbelievably difficult. 

There are many mountains in our lifetime.  A death of a close family member or friend - broken relationships - the challenges of an illness - turning away from addiction - saying no to peer pressure - and probably the most difficult of living a life of commitment to the Lord and our faith.  Why is it so difficult to live our life for Christ?

The Saints were thrown into arenas with wild beasts to be thrashed around as a form of entertainment.  They were nailed to crosses, stoned to death and beaten by mobs.  Their mountain caused them to face ridiculous pressure and threat of a hurendous death and yet they stood firm while our threat is nothing more than an uncomfortable feeling of unacceptance and yet many fold to the pressure.  Why are we so weak in today's age?  Why do so many quit when the challenge of faith gets a little uncomfortable instead of pressing on with even more conviction?  In the year 300, their fear was an excruciating death while today we fear being made fun of. 

To my readers - I'd like to challenge you to press on!  Seek the truth of our faith and live it boldy! 
Don't accept watered down teachings.  Don't accept knowing partial truths.  Intead, seek to know the entire truth with every possible reasoning to be used.  Use science, reason, experience and tradition to speak to your heart.  Don't accept scriptural translations that are used to prove a point - rather seek the truth to what the scripture is actually saying with the context it is written.  Most importantly, do your reasearch!  Know your scripture.  Read the writings of the first christians.  Read the theological development of the church fathers.  Understand Catholic teaching after Vatican II instead of relying on what your grandmother taught you about the Catholic faith from when she was a kid.  When challenged, be equipped to answer the questions.  Be drawn into a deeper relationship of the Lord through active participation in the tools of the Catholic Chuch.  Receive the sacraments as often as possible.  Connect with your community and allow them to be your support.  Continue to learn and grow in your faith by attending ongoing formation.  Reconnect with the power of the Holy spirit and attend a retreat. 

Push yourself!  It's hard - no question.  It's not always fun to challenge yourself, but when you do, you eventually find yourself overlooking all of your accomplishments and you can be proud for the progess you have made. 

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