High school and Middle school aged children on an early morning hike on the last day of the Lower Midwest family vacation

I Never Thought They Would Come

Surprised by her teenagers’ response to the CL family vacation, Simona shares what she saw.

Something extraordinary happened to our family last week. I did not think our three teens (ages 13, 14, 16) would want to come to the CL summer family vacation, especially our oldest. They still come to mass with us and are friends of our friends, but they don't live our experience. They decided to come to the vacation last minute only because the place looked nice and they had no better plans.

From the first morning I started to fear defiance when we closed ourselves in a room for morning prayer and they were left outside to help with the little kids and then we all embarked on a rainy hike. But they did not complain. I was puzzled when they stayed for all of Fr. Michael’s witness the second evening. I noticed during the second hike that apparently they had become friends of other little kids and took them hand-in-hand all the way to the hardest part, when we reached the beautiful waterfalls. Then the singing night came, and they started singing and participating in ways I was not expecting – full of life and freedom.

On the final morning, I literally could not believe my eyes when they wanted to stay for the final assembly (I confess: I even advised them against it). As soon as they jumped in the car to go home, our oldest started to share how wonderful the vacation was, and said verbatim:

"I wanted to talk at the assembly and say 3 things:
1) This is the only place where you can see that Catholicism matters with life and people are ‘real’ – they don't live fake lives.
2) To all the moms that were sharing their struggles with little kids at the assembly I wanted to say, ‘I was one of those kids, but I am here now, so keep bringing your kids!’
3) The food was extraordinarily good and we need to thank Mrs. Z. for how much she worked for it (he is a foodie, so this is not an easy compliment from him!)."

My husband and I thought we were dreaming. Our kids are ordinary teenagers – not "CL kids" at all – always critical, defiant, strong-willed, ready to defend the opposite of what we do. This has been our biggest prayer/struggle/question: how could they at least SEE what I saw in my experience of the movement in Italy at 15 years old? How can they live the beauty of true friends, even if the forms and times are different and "re-creating GS" seems impossible in most places in the United States? I am sure these are questions that many have, in many zip codes, and nothing new to God.

Yet God, as always, took the most incredible route – the vacation I thought they would not have come – to rekindle their flame, as Fr. Mauro said to us at the Exercises.

Simona, Cincinnati, OH