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To the Heights!

Shalom friends, we are so excited to share with you our experiences from the past couple of weeks! On July 13th, a group of five young adults began their summer Core Team journey by meeting the intern team, Fr. Anthony, and Sr. Monica at the Community of the Beatitudes house in Denver. We kick-started our time together by driving to the Jesus Our Hope Hermitage for a few days of retreat. This set the tone for a summer full of prayer, liturgy, and service. Following the retreat, we packed everything on our backs and spent time backpacking in the Holy Cross Wilderness. While challenging, this time was filled with an abundance of grace from the Lord and growth in community among the team.

Jesus Our Hope

Because the core team traveled from various locations across the country, we took extra steps for COVID safety such as wearing masks, staying six feet apart, and spending as much time outdoors as possible. While this could seem like an inconvenience, the Lord truly worked through these measures to add to the ambiance of prayer and reflection during the retreat.

Each day at the hermitage began with silence while we ate breakfast and walked to the grotto outside for Morning Prayer. We are so blessed this summer to have many beautiful voices and even a violinist on the Core Team who each add to the melodious beauty of the liturgy!

Following Lauds, the rest of our time consisted of a combination of prayer and community-building. We had the opportunity to celebrate Divine Liturgy, the Byzantine Catholic form of the Mass. For many of us, this was the first step in experiencing the beautiful and rich liturgy of the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church. As we detached from media, we had time for adoration and personal reflection and listening to talks given by Fr. Anthony and Sr. Monica. Our free time was filled with the option for more prayer as well as recreation and meal preparation. To emphasize the importance of building our small community, we shared our testimonies with each other between times of prayer and meals.

In the Mountains

Following our retreat time at Jesus Our Hope, we packed up for our mountain adventure. The first night of our trip was spent camping near Central City where we finished organizing our supplies and made our final preparations. From there, we drove up to Holy Cross wilderness for three nights of backpacking.

With each step, we were continually blown away by the beauty of creation. Immense mountains extended in every direction, and wildflowers painted each side of the trail. With this backdrop, the Lord generously poured out many graces upon us. It was such a gift to pray Morning Prayer on the shores of mountain lakes, celebrate Mass high in the mountains, pray the rosary in Hebrew as we walked, and praise the Lord through dance at the highest point of our hike.

Our backpacking trip also provided many opportunities to rely on each other and to perform acts of service for the group. Whether it was filtering drinking water from the streams, preparing a meal, or carrying more weight in our packs during the hikes, each person was invited to make a gift of self and to receive from each other. On our final night in the mountains, we had an evening of worship, prayer, and praise to conclude our trip and thank the Lord for all that He did in our hearts during this time.

As we descended from the mountains the next morning and returned to Central City, we hiked in silence once again and reflected on the graces and challenges of our trip. By stepping outside of our comfort zones and into the wilderness, we were invited to rely fully on the Lord and on each other. We were reminded that our lives are a pilgrimage deeper into relationship with the Trinity and that He is calling us to Himself in every moment through every experience. What a joy it is to encounter our God so profoundly in his creation!

The whole earth is a living icon of the face of God.” - St. John of Damascus

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