When I was in high school, I attended fall and spring retreats. Each retreat had a Scripture-based theme, popular music that could be interpreted as having a Christian message, and a nature walk. The nature walk was advertised as a special time where we met Jesus on the road to Emmaus. The group of high schoolers were instructed to write down the questions we had for Jesus. We were asked to go off in pairs, walk and pray in silence, and journal about our experiences.
As with many well-intentioned, works-in-theory, looks-great-on-paper retreats, this time should have been a beautiful meeting with my Lord and God. However, teenaged girls are not known for their solemnity and silence when they are out of sight of their adults. The girls, who were not my friends, shattered my silence with their worldly conversations that were none of my business. Where was the peace the world cannot give? Where was my Jesus? Both were lost to me in the noise.
I left my home and all of its drama and noise to come to the place where the outside world was not welcomed. And yet, here it was in my cabin. I had no place to run. I was trapped in the storm of the world, and I could not find my Jesus.
Mass was never really Mass on those retreats. It was a time of inclusiveness, feelings, and performing arts. The choir teenagers asked the congregation teenagers not to sing because it would interfere with their embellishments. The bread and wine were French baguettes and grape juice because it was illegal to serve alcohol to minors. The readings were not the prescribed Sunday readings but readings on friendship and the Scriptural theme of the retreat. We reclined at table rather than sit, stand, or kneel.
I felt so lost without my Jesus.
Then one day everything changed. I graduated from high school and college. I went alone to a Eucharistic chapel where I finally found my Jesus. I prayed aloud. I spoke to my Jesus. He spoke to me. I went for walks with my Jesus. I spoke to Him about my day, and I listened to Him when He spoke to me about my life. My heart burned within me every time I went to Mass, a real Mass with real Scripture, real music, and real unleavened bread and wine. I knew that my Jesus was there in that place, and no amount of noise could change that.
Jesus had set me free.