For several years, I have sat in the pews at St. Ann’s listening to the announcements inviting people to WATCH. For several years, individual people have invited me to attend a WATCH. Each year, I had a good reason to not participate. This year as I heard the announcement the first week, I instantly tried to figure out what conflicts would prevent me from attending. The second week, a friend who previously made a WATCH asked me to attend. I told her I would pray about it. I also started creating conflicts. The third week, another friend asked me to attend. I responded the same way. Over the three week period, I came up with a list of obstacles that could prevent me from attending. Each obstacle I came up with miraculously disappeared. So, I signed up.
With the obstacles out of the way, I was left to my own thoughts and feelings about attending. In reality, I did not want to give up a whole weekend to spend time with people I did not know. I did not want to spend a weekend listening to people give talks that really did not relate to me. I did not want to spend time in reflection for fear I might learn that there are some things that I need to change. You see, I thought my relationship with God was going well. I was spending time with Him on a daily basis by reading scripture and mediations. I was attending Mass weekly. I was even receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation on a regular basis. In my mind, I was spending plenty of time with God.
For me, there was not one moment or singular event during the WATCH weekend that was so earth shattering that will forever change my life. It was more subtle. It was so subtle that I did not truly realize the transformation that was happening inside of me. I started figuring it out when I went back to my every day routine. The contrast or gap between my day to day life and those three short days of the WATCH weekend was ridiculously large.
The talks were all given by ordinary people, who by the grace of God, were made extraordinary and given the courage and strength to share their spiritual journey. Through listening to the talks, I gained knowledge of God’s word. But what made the talks even more extraordinary were the individuals’ desire and ability to share their experience of the reality of God in their lives. It was their personal stories, their trials and tribulations that everyone in the room could somehow relate. It was their personal stories that allowed me to see their faith and allowed me to share mine. It was the music, the skits, the meals, the chapel visits, the whole physical environment that was orchestrated by people through God’s grace. It was through this fellowship that I learned I am not alone. It was through the fellowship that I felt allowed me to be real. I could talk or I could be silent. I could laugh or I could cry. I could make a joke or I could be serious. I could be the giver or the receiver.
It went beyond the 25 people that sat at the tables that WATCH weekend. It was also all the people in the background assisting with the weekend that took care of our day to day needs to allow those at the tables to focus strictly on the events and activities of the weekend. It was the kitchen crew who prepared and shared meals. There were the people in the prayer chapel, the people doing agape, and the people who gave their time setting up the physical environment. There were people who I may never meet that were praying for the success of the weekend. They were praying for me to come closer to God.
So as I said, there was not one singular moment or event. It was subtle. It was the culmination of the weekend that has proven to be life altering. It brought to the forefront that the God of the entire universe wants to have a personal relationship with each and every one of us, including me. The fellowship shared that weekend, I later realized, was not just fellowship with other individuals striving to put God in the center of their lives. It was fellowship with the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and their Holy Spirit. I still spend time with God by attending Mass weekly. I am still involved by reading the daily scripture and spending time with the meditations. I am still involved through prayer. But after the WATCH weekend, it is no longer “I.” It is “WE.” It is the community that allows me to spend time in the fellowship of the Trinity. Every time I pick up my bible to spend time with the scripture, every time I pray, every time I attend Mass, every time I share the gifts God has graced me with, and every time I receive a gift God has graced another with, I am spending time in the fellowship of the Triune God. We Are The CHurch. It is not just a weekend; it is a way to choose life. It is a way to live life. It is a way to close the gap.
~Submitted by Kristin Joseph, a parishioner at St. Ann Catholic Church (Peoria, Illinois)