“The Church hopes for a renewed “epiphany” of beauty (and beatitude) in our time.”
-St. John Paul II
We see often today the challenges brought about by the secularization of society. Catholics, especially young adults, are being challenged by the secular society in the school, at work, and even in relationships. How do we respond to these challenges? Is it enough to simply let them survive the challenges? Or can we do more?
To be able to overcome these challenges, our Religious Family has tried to take some steps to help form the laity, and especially the young adults. Each year, we host an annual four-day formation program called Universitas. The intention of Universitas is to provide young adults with human, spiritual, intellectual, and apostolic formation, which is essential for all Catholics, but even more so for the young adults. Universitas helps young adults step out of the world for a few days to learn more about their faith and to grow closer to Christ so that they may fully participate in the world without being of the world.
We held our first Universitas in 2013 with about thirty young adults at our retreat center in Upstate New York. This year, we welcomed nearly one hundred young adults from all over our Province. All of the young adults came for one reason: Christ, and Him alone.
This year’s theme for Universitas was “Beauty & Beatitude.” Members of our Religious Family as well as guest speakers gave conferences throughout the weekend on this topic. Dr. John-Mark Miravalle, author and professor at Mount St. Mary’s University, spoke on “Beauty” and why it matters. Dr. Miravalle explained that beauty is a “spiritual reality expressed in a way that can be perceived by our senses.” He went on to explain that order and surprise are the two elements that make something beautiful. He said that order, which is “the regularity of natural laws,” expresses God’s intelligence and surprise, which is “the non-obviousness of nature,” expresses God’s freedom. Dr. Miravalle then spoke on beauty of the natural world, temptations away from beauty, beauty in art, and sacred beauty. After learning about beauty, Msgr. Charles Pope, from the Archdiocese of Washington and author of several works, spoke on “Beatitude.” Msgr. Pope explained that “Beatitude” comes from the Latin word Beatus, meaning a deep and sincere happiness, a happiness that is flourishing and stable. Msgr. Pope explained that to live beatitude is to live the normal Christian life. He said that “the normal Christian life is transformative, flourishing, and has a joy that people can’t deny.” Msgr. Pope then explained each of the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount and how it is more than a list we should follow in life. He explained that it is as if Jesus is telling us “This is what begins to happen to you, if you let me live my life in you.”
Aside from the conferences, each morning began with the Rosary followed by the Holy Mass. The young adults were able to participate in the Liturgy by helping with the readings and offertory. Following Mass, the young adults were able to spend some community time over meals, sports, games, competitions, and even some hikes to a grotto of Our Lady. There were several rain storms over the weekend which prevented us from hiking in the Catskill Mountains. So, instead of hiking, we were able to travel an hour north to Auriesville to the shrine of the North American Martyrs where Sts. Isaac Jogues, René Goupil, John Lalande were martyred in the mid-1600s and also a few decades later St. Kateri Tekakwitha was born. We were able to have Mass together in the chapel and then the young adults were able to walk down to the ravine where the remains of St. René Goupil were last seen and walk the grounds where the martyrs themselves walked.
To bring each day to a close, we had an hour of Eucharistic Adoration with vespers. During Adoration each night, there were several IVE priests hearing confessions for the young adults. Following Adoration, Fr. Ted Trinko, IVE, gave a series of “Good Nights” to the young adults on prayer. He explained what prayer is, why we should pray, how to pray, and the importance of praying the Rosary. Following the “Good Nights,” there were more opportunities for community time over meals and recreation. There were bonfires, ultimate frisbee games, soccer matches, songs and music by the fire, and many more activities together.
When the young adults were asked what their favorite part of Universitas was, most will answer that it was the community. The young adults look forward to gathering together, away from the world, to grow closer to God with others their age. It is refreshing to them to be able to meet people their age, from around the country, who are fighting the same challenges our society presses upon them.
We give thanks to God for this year’s Universitas! We entrust the fruits of Universitas to Christ through the hands of Our Lady. We ask you to join us in praying for all those who attended that they may be true witnesses to the beauty that comes from the life of following Christ.
– Sr. Mary of Calvary – St. Kateri Tekakwitha Novitiate