June 22, 2010


On Sunday afternoon, about 70 youth and 10 adults showed up at our chapel for a caminata (hiking excursion). We've written about a couple of caminatas here and here. Chileans, while similar to Americans in our general hatred of walking, love a good caminata. Most religious festivals or feast days are celebrated with a long, arduous journey to help the faithful remember Christ's suffering and to offer up their own hardships as a prayer for a special intention. This was the first time we organized our own on a parish level.

The kids arrived relatively on time (only twenty minutes late!), revealing their excitement for the walk to begin. We played a couple of games to keep them happy while the latecomers arrived and then embarqued on an hour long trek up the mountain that they call a hill. It was tough for them. Many tried to give up along the way, but were encouraged to keep going. We all made it to the top, where we had a special activity planned.

The view from the top is spectacular. You can see all of our neighborhood, all of Alto Hospicio and even the ocean down in Iquique. Since it's winter, the fog was pretty thick and we couldn't see the ocean too clearly. But, as the sun set, it cast an orange hue on the water and we all got a special glimpse of nature. (Guess who forgot the camera?)

Besides showing them a view, we wanted to give the kids a more profound look into the mass. We have the problem in our parish that the teens don't come to mass. Or, when they do come, they show up late, sit close to the back or chat outside until Communion, when they walk up the aisle to receive the host and then quickly leave. So, we broke them up into groups and set up stations that represented different parts of the mass:

1) Forgiveness - in this station, we had the kids take part in an Act of Reconciliation, where they were able to write their sins and shortcomings on a piece of paper and burn them. We wanted them to know that asking for forgiveness is not only for once or twice a year in the confessional, but rather part of a constant conversation with God. The mass serves us as a more frequent reminder to examine our conscience and to live better lives.

2) The Gospel - The kids did a Lectio Divina activity with the gospel reading for that day. They were guided in a relaxation meditation, read the gospel and shared what the text said to them and how they were called to live out that message in their lives. They then finished with a small prayer that each one spoke from the heart.

3) The Offering - Here, we focused on what the kids could offer God from their own lives. They were asked to create a small figure from clay that would symbolize what they want to offer to God. Some made guitars, which meant that they wanted to share their gift of music, others made bread, saying that they wanted to share materially with the most poor of the community and many made hearts, signifying that they wanted to offer their love and care for others.

4) The Consecration - This was a more complicated theme, as the conversion of mere bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is indeed a mystery. So, we decided to have the kids look over the scene, the setting sun over an ocean from the top of a mountain, and to contemplate the presence of God in nature. Interestingly, during one group's contemplation, the clouds formed a cross in the sky.

5) Communion - We focused on this theme after we returned from our walk and came back to the chapel. We arrived and shared a meal together - evening tea. Here, we chatted and laughed about the events of the day.

We feel so privileged to be apart of a team here at the parish where we are able to hold events like this one, where we strive to create an ambiance where each youth has the opportunity to have a personal encounter with God. Being able to share our gifts in order to bring others to Christ has been so rewarding. For this, we are very thankful.

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