Some have asked why I am in the middle of North Dakota this summer. And for those just tuning in, well, I am in North Dakota this summer! I thought it might be easier for both my own reflection and because it probably won’t be feasible for me to get to a phone/some sort of communication in the coming month to call you, to write out why I find myself in the middle of North Dakota for the coming 5 weeks.
5 days ago, we packed up my Honda with backpacks, camping gear, and enough clothing for 5 weeks. We drove east out to Jasper and onto Hinton and Calgary and a little place called Warner by the border. We passed the U.S. border, surrendered our oranges, and carried on through Northern Montana listening to podcasts, old loved bands, bands with too much accordion, and discussing everything from the effects of the internet on postmodernism to the negative effects of holding in farts. Intelligent conversation, you know. We camped out by the Missouri river (later swam in the Missouri river), sighted buffalo, wild horses and prairie dogs, and ate from our cooler, sandwiches of hummus, cheese, and jerkey. And 22 hours of driving later, we finally arrived!
For the next 5 weeks, I will be here at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota at the Ecclesia Institute. Here is a fabulous video that sums up Ecclesia:
Earlier this year, I had been searching for something to help me discern my Vocation, for something to offer me answers to questions I was battling with the university students I was serving. I had questions about secularism, consumerism, sexuality. I wanted to go deep and there was only so much I could read between a full-time ministry position, community house, and new relationship.
I stumbled by complete fluke upon Ecclesia. On their website, Fr.Nathan talks about how Ecclesia is designed to offer “the most of the best to the thirstiest.” “That’s me,” I thought. I was so thirsty! I was thirsty for more prayer, for more knowledge, for more Truth, for more silence, for more clarity in my discernment, for more peace in my discernment, for Christ to break through all of my carefully planned out ways and take me into the dessert once again. In the words of St. Therese, when it comes to the spiritual banquet, “I choose all!”
We had our first full day today and in it alone, I found answers to questions I had been seeking for months and time in prayer that I had been craving for weeks. It is akin to coming home. We discussed relativism, postmodernism, individualism and how we are called to combat these but not just to form our own clique of ‘Christian amish’ as Fr. Nathan jokingly explained, but to go to the people and to be missionary bridge-builders. He went on to quote Pope Paul VI who said, “An evangelizer needs to know two things: Jesus Christ and modern man.” At Ecclesia, we will be looking at getting to know both Jesus and modern man.
This morning, the morn of our first full day here at the Ecclesia Institute, Fr. Nathan encouraged us to “Start with Why.” If you haven’t already seen it, here is a great talk by business leader, Simon Sinek, who coined this phrase. WHY are we at Ecclesia?
So to distill it all down and sum up this entire blog post in one sentence (yes, I could have done without a whole blog post!) here is my why as best I know it now: to simply sit at Jesus’ feet; to be with Him.
I am the Samaritan woman at the well and Jesus is showing me to the springs of eternal life. I am thirsty and I am also whom He is thirsting for. I am both a thirst of Christ’s and thirsting for Him.
As my spiritual director pointed out before I left, nothing could be more important than to spend more time growing in intimacy with Christ. As Fr. Jean D’Elbee says, “Only your personal and profound union with Christ will assure the fruitfulness of your apostolate.”
I hope you each get much time to sit at His feet this summer. Put away your phones and computers and step out of your individualism to a place where you can encounter Him. If you need to, pack up shop and head out to the mountains or woods.
He is aching for you.
See you in 5 weeks,