Unsplash // OC Gonzalez

Upper Midwest Family Vacation

Derian and Rebecca share their experience of their CL family vacation.

Every year, when I attend the CL summer vacation, without a family of my own to give me an easy sense of home and belonging that I long for (I am single, and my parents have no involvement with CL), I struggle with temptations to believe that I’m lonely, isolated, and don’t belong, despite the fact that everyone around me is so inviting and welcoming. And yet, every year, I experience something beautiful and life-affirming enough that when it comes time to register for the vacation again the next year, I do so almost without thinking. It isn’t until I actually find myself heading to the vacation that these lonesome feelings begin to pry open that wound.

This year was no different. However, something surprising provoked me during the first evening, when Jonathan Fromm, the leader of this year’s Upper Midwest Vacation, proclaimed his desire to experience the same beauty that he always experiences at the end of the vacation, but on that very first night! This resonated with me deeply, and inspired me.

Later that night around the bonfire, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine. We opened up to each other about our fears and our desires related to the vacation. In some sense, it was a simple, ordinary experience, but it reminded me of my belonging in a way that corresponded to the fullness of my heart in a particularly personal way. It was as if God Himself had balmed the wound: for the rest of the vacation, I no longer struggled with the temptation to indulge in feelings of isolation! It was the freest and most joyful CL vacation I’ve experienced.

In reflecting on this experience afterwards, in light of our work in the School of Community on The Religious Sense, I realized that at this vacation I had a choice between two different criteria for answering the question of whether the belonging I longed for existed. There was the criteria of my feelings, telling me that I don’t belong, and the criteria of my relationships with others and the way that I’m treated, telling me that I do. I understand, rationally, that the latter is the more reasonable criteria to apply to the question, yet that doesn’t make the feelings go away, arising from a wound in my heart that is still very real, and so I typically find myself struggling with the temptation to indulge in them throughout the entire vacation. But this year, God entered into that wound in an even deeper way, to help convert my heart to more fully understand my belonging, even on an emotional level, beyond where my unassisted reason could take me. Yet, I’m sure that it was my reason that allowed me to be open to this in the first place, recognizing all of the other signs of my belonging that I’ve seen in the past as indicators of the truth, even if my heart needed that extra pull to get all the way there.

Derian, St. Paul, MN


During the vacation I was confronted with how much I was not in control and how much I needed to reach out to others. This is the same thing I have struggled with at my work. In moments of helplessness, I find myself frustrated when faced with issues where I feel I should have all the solutions and simply do not have them. Many things during our vacation pushed me to move beyond this temptation.

On my way home from the vacation I received a call from my boss, who is my parish priest, letting me know that the night before, someone had broken into the rectory, made himself at home, while I was away for vacation. That morning he got into the church, climbed the high altar, destroyed the beautiful statue of Mary holding baby Jesus, and damaged part of the free standing altar. I was confronted with the fact that even if I had been there that morning the outcome would have most likely been the same. Shocked by this news, I reached out to some friends who had been with me on the vacation. One of them reminded me, "We know that Christ meets us in reality even when we face ugliness and sin, I'll pray that you can stay open to encountering him in this situation."

When I got to work the next day most of the mess was cleaned. I admitted my feeling of guilt to a fellow parishioner – guilt for not having been there in the morning as I normally would have been since I was out of town, guilt for not being able to prevent this thing from happening. Yet, in those days of cleanup addressing what had happened, there were many instances with both parishioner friends and strangers where I was embraced even in my helplessness, helping me to accept that things are out of my control.

I discovered that accepting my own helplessness reminds me to lean on Him, to encounter Him. There will always be times where I have no control no matter my efforts, yet it is true that there is strength in vulnerability and in my own brokenness. I am reminded of the fact that when I am open to encountering Him, I am made whole.

Rebecca, Duluth, MN