By Debbie Herbeck
Last month, my husband and I embarked on a three-week adventure, taking some time off to celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary in the scenic region of Umbria, Italy. From there, we traveled to West Yorkshire, England, to lead a retreat for a Catholic community that contains many members who have emigrated from Poland in the past ten years to find work.
Italy was amazing and inspiring. What’s not to love about breathtaking vistas, culinary delights, great wine, and walking in the footsteps of saints like Francis, Clare, Catherine, Agnes, Bernard, Rufino, Leo, and others? And on a more personal note, thirty years of marriage is no small feat—God’s faithfulness and steadfast love were evident all around us!
But perhaps the most refreshing and inspiring element of our trip was the time we spent with approximately 150 Polish Catholics, many of whom are in their twenties and thirties. It brought me back to the early days of my own encounter with Christ many years ago and reminded me of some of the fundamental building blocks of the life of a disciple.
Community is essential. In the midst of an often hostile culture, we need one another. This means building a life together that intentionally and practically helps us put Jesus at the center of our lives—our marriages, families, friendships, finances—everything. In a highly individualized world in which many young people have difficulty with commitment, we met young people committed to sharing their lives together in community, despite the sacrifice of their time and resources. We witnessed the beauty of a shared vision for life together and the strength and courage to live for heaven.
Hungry for more of God is how I would characterize those I met and observed during our four-day retreat. During the sessions of teaching and worship, everyone was attentive and focused, and the common distractions of cell phones were not even in sight. They had planned for and looked forward to our coming for months and it was clear from the full attendance at every session that this was the most important thing happening for them. Not because they wanted to see the Herbecks, but because they had an expectant faith in God’s action.
Groups of young people gathered around us during breaks, asking questions and desiring prayer and personal counsel. The humility and receptivity present among them was refreshing. These disciples weren’t trying to portray an image of “having it all together,” but were earnestly seeking the guidance and help of others.
A passion for souls was evident by their desire to reach the lost and their commitment to making that happen. Many young people radically converted by the Alpha course are now leading the course and helping their co-workers, neighbors, and family members also experience the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. During one prayer session, a beautiful twenty-one-year-old woman began to quietly weep. She shared with us that on the bus ride to the conference, the Lord had put His heart into hers and had given her a deep anguish for the lost.
The retreat culminated at a four-hour event on the eve of Pentecost. This vibrant community of disciples tirelessly worshipped the Lord at the vigil Mass, conducted a beautiful procession, performed a powerful drama, and adored the Lord in Adoration. And then they stayed until the early hours of the morning to clean up! The cry of their hearts was, “More Lord, give us more!”
How refreshing it is to remember that there is always more, and that the call of the Lord to His disciples is to go deeper and to imitate the Master in a life of sacrificial love. Honestly, I want to be more like them!