GS: A Story of Friendship

Friends graduating high school reflect on their experience of GS (the high school experience of Communion and Liberation)

On a Friday in January the school day ended with a unique twist. Several seniors who weren’t all that close and many underclassmen we knew even less piled into a van and various other vehicles. We departed for a long trip up to the Poconos for the GS vacation, something that none of us students fully understood. We simply followed our teacher who invited us because he thought it would be a beautiful experience for us. The ride there was already something special. We sang songs by Mumford and Sons, Coldplay, and Lumineers all the way to the mountains. We arrived late, but when we got there, the other GS students from other schools were already singing; we fit right in.

The activities in the vacation were simple but satisfying and purposeful. We played games, listened to talks, and had moments of silence and prayer. We spoke to one another more honestly as days went by and listened to the talks and witnesses of older people, hanging on to every word as though salvation could be found in their next metaphor, and a secret to freedom in their next sentence. And the games were exceptional. For high schoolers, it is difficult to have “fun”. Sometimes we would go to parties so that we could forget about our daily stress and anxieties. But the fun during the vacation was different. We hadn’t had that type of fun since we were children. It was an unforced focus, each of us meditating on the single object of winning the game without an ounce of fear about losing. There was a capital “S” Something (or Someone) which was so palpably present in what we were learning and practicing that everyone could experience it. It was in facing that Something together that we happened upon friendship.

There’s really no good reason for all of us to be friends, but since we found GS we can’t ignore that something has happened to us. We all had our own problems, our own drama, our own whatever-it-is that makes us adolescents, and, for some reason, we thought that following the invitation of our teachers to the Pocono Mountains for the GS Vacation during MLK weekend was a good idea. Maybe there was a sense of desperation, or we didn’t know where to take our questions about our lives anymore. But during the winter vacation, for one of the first times in our lives, we were encouraged to embrace everything we wanted to get away from, fix, or forget. For the first time an adult was standing in front of us, telling us that what we were trying to shove down inside us or away from us could actually open us up to a deeper understanding and adventure within our humanity. That what was inside us, that we couldn’t get rid of, was good.

The vacation started a new way of life for us. We’d been groping around for solutions, for stability or answers to our unique problems, but GS threw us outside of ourselves and showed us a way of living that we didn’t know was an option. It grounded us in something deeper and truer than we had experienced before. We discovered that every aspect of our lives was necessarily and unavoidably related to and dependent on what we had encountered. Every part of our lives had to change, and we were experiencing that necessity, that desire, that weakness, that excitement, and that sense of adventure together.

In short, we were honest, first with ourselves, and then with one another. Honesty is not peaceful at the beginning. It’s a gut ache and more tears than you’d believe could come from so many smiling people. You realize rather quickly that not a single one of us is really satisfied, and everyone is begging for some direction, some hope. These friends have been a gift that can offer no more than themselves, the priceless knowledge that we are not alone, and the faces where honest joy is beginning to sprout. We are siblings, not chosen but freely given and always sitting around, gazing at something we each love. At times it is a mentor, at times it is beauty, at times it is our honest words, and always it is the Father, who, we’ve been told, loves us more than we’re willing to believe.

After the winter vacation – the day after the winter vacation – a handful of us got coffee. The next day we got coffee again. Then again about two weeks later. Meeting at the cafe near our school became a special tradition for us. We didn’t have to have a reason to get together. There was no obligation being forced on us except that we remembered that something happened to us. Making an effort to see each other affirmed that we were intrigued by what and who had happened to us.

When we are with each other, we are reminded that everything matters more because our friendship is rooted in an encounter with the ultimate Source of meaning. And that Source guides our conversations and time together. We have seen what it is to truly live, and that changes how we want to be part of life. We don’t want to change things to make them how “they should be.” Things are as they should be. Now we delight in simply facing “what is” together.

In the next chapter of our lives we will be separated from one another by time and distance. For the most part we’re all going to different colleges and won’t see much of one another until breaks from school or visits. But because our friendship and trust are rooted in an unchangeable, immovable, incredibly true and certain Mystery, we know that no time or distance will change the fact that something beautiful and deeply real has happened to us. We have “met Christ in human faces”. For the rest of our lives we know – even if in a small sense – what we’re looking for, and we are eager to see each other again someday and share all the joy that was promised to us in these last few months.

We have learned to embrace the depth of our friendship because we are learning how to love and accept the destiny Christ has for each one of us. We are affirming that we have a friendship of the truest kind, and moving off to our own colleges brings not just sadness but a sense of joy. It is a joy born from having been in each other’s lives, a joy for heading off for more adventures armed with a certainty of life’s goodness and an expectation of more to come. Lastly, we can leave each other with a profound trust, based on the promise of these beautiful experiences, that this is not the end. This is just the beginning.

Sarah, Daniela, Melissa, Jacob, Alexis, Shannon, Morgan
Fairfax, VA