Finding God During a 3 Week Wilderness Expedition

“The mystery of Christ…at work in a hidden manner.”

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Reflection by Wyoming Catholic College senior Joseph Fredriksson

Photos taken by Wyoming Catholic College student Marissa Daskiewicz

One of the many highlights of one’s time at Wyoming Catholic College is the 21-day expedition into the wilderness. With this experience, one mimics the life of Christ, which was filled with retreats into the wilderness, especially in the Gospel of Luke.

One may wonder why Christ gives us the backcountry retreat model.  Specifically about the 21-day trip, what is so valuable about this backcountry experience?  Why so long?  I believe the silence that comes from a prolonged period away from modern society’s endless noise is one of the things that makes the trip so profitable.  In the wilderness’ silence—ever pregnant with the Word—one learns to listen for a truly meaningful whisper from the Lord, a whisper birthed by the silence. With Elijah, one hears and gains strength from the “still, small voice.”

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In addition to the silence, the arduous physical activity provides us with another beautiful experience; it reminds us that we have flesh, flesh that is to be subdued with the aid the Spirit.  Without conquering ourselves physically as Christ models in his own forty-day desert fast, we cannot hope to return to the front country ready to act properly in a theandric (both human and divine) manner.

This past August, I led the 21-day expedition along with two other Wyoming Catholic College students for a group of eleven freshmen.  Though the students were admirable in a number of ways, some of the students profoundly understood the above points: the power of silence, and self-mastery.

One of the students, who usually refrained from unnecessary chatter throughout the trip, gave a struggling student the strength to keep going by saying truly meaningful things in a “still, small voice.” He served as an example of Christ, since he was master over himself physically. He was an example of, as Pope Francis puts it in Laudato Si, “the mystery of Christ…at work in a hidden manner” (Laudato Si, Paragraph 99). From his silence he could speak a word of strength to the weak.

The struggling student, too, in and through his hardships, served as an example of Christ.  Despite the arduous nature of the trip, he didn’t quit.  He wrestled with nature, the “created cosmos” and “[threw] in his lot…even to the cross.”  “He opened not his mouth” as he bore his cross, following in the footsteps of Christ.

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One of the trip’s spiritual highpoints came at its midpoint.  The group was growing tired after a few difficult days of hiking; we had an opportunity to rest. Once we woke up in the morning, Father celebrated Mass as usual, but this time saved a consecrated host.  He then processed with the students chanting the Salve Regina to a tent that was set up for 24 hours of Adoration.  Throughout the day, a day which the students had set aside as time of silence, each student took a holy hour to be with Our Lord. It became more beautiful that night, when one could just look out from his tent and see the bright light shining from the tent, the stars’ own complement, and know that a student was alone with Him, “the light of men…the light that shines in the darkness.”

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All of us, instructors and students alike, profited from the silence and physical challenge of this trip. I believe that we all are better equipped to face the challenges of the classroom and society at large because we have come to experience, to some degree or another, “the Christian understanding of the world, the destiny of all creation…bound up in the mystery of Christ.”

 

 

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