Conversion stories always surprise us. That's why we loved Word On Fire contributor Father Damian Ference's story of a recent conversion he witnessed (and let's be honest, helped facilitate) at a summer camp for teenagers in Cleveland. When doubt or disbelief strikes, "Tolle Lege" and its inspiring students may have the antidote.
During the last two weeks of June we run a little something at Borromeo Seminary called Tolle Lege, a summer institute for young men and women heading into their senior year of high school. Our primary mission is to take young people who are already serious disciples of Jesus and give them a weeklong immersion into the intellectual, liturgical and cultural life of the Church. Our hope is that, after a week with us, they will make their way back to their home parishes and high schools equipped with knowledge, wisdom, faith, hope, charity, and confidence that will allow them to be excellent Christian witnesses and leaders in their given communities around the diocese.
Young people need to apply for Tolle Lege, and they have to have a recommendation from their pastor or youth minister so that we know we are receiving the kind of young person that will benefit from the kinds of things we do, which aren’t your typical youth group activities.
We begin each day by praying Morning Prayer. (Most of our young people haven’t been exposed to the Liturgy of the Hours before, yet they really seem to like it once introduced.) After Morning Prayer we celebrate Mass. We intentionally keep our liturgies “flat” in the best sense of the word, as we want to model what lived Catholicism looks like in everyday life – we’re not after an emotional high. After breakfast, the young people take a seventy-five minute philosophy class, and following a little break, they take a seventy-five minute theology class. The students take another break, and then it’s time for lunch. The morning schedule holds steady all week, but the afternoon and evening activities vary.
One afternoon we have a presentation on Scripture, Art and Architecture, another will be on Theology of the Body, and another on Vocations. We also make our way to the Cleveland Museum of Art, our Cathedral (for a tour and Mass), the Cleveland Zoo, an Indians game, and we visit a handful of neighborhoods in the city and tour historic churches. The young people love it, as most of them come to us from the suburbs, so many of them don’t know much about the Church outside their home parishes. We also put on our “paschal mystery glasses” and watch one film each week, followed by a good theological discussion about Christian themes present in the film...