The 17th annual Youth in Theology and Ministry Summer Institute was held at Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary, June 12-25, 2016 in Collegeville, MN. During the Institute’s Closing Session, Caitlyn (a Summer II youth) gave everyone gathered–youth, counselors, adult mentors, and families–a challenge to treat every moment as an opportunity to offer their lives as a prayer. The video and text of Caitlyn’s talk are below.
Good afternoon. My name is Caitlyn Shipp. I am from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and I am going to be a senior at Holy Family Catholic High School.
I stand before you today to give you a challenge–a challenge that has challenged me to live every moment of my life to glorify God. In my first summer attending YTM, my way of prayer was confined in the ritual action of signing myself with the cross, and speaking my prayer intention to God. It was not until I came to YTM where that mindset had evolved into something greater. There are many different types of prayer, such as journaling, Visio Divina, Ignatian contemplation, and Lectio Divina, to name a few.
But I soon realized there was more to prayer than these.
When I opened my eyes to see God around me, I saw prayer come to life in the smallest of things. When walking to Pengl [the building on campus where YTM sessions are held], I listened to our footsteps walking out of sync. It was God’s natural song. Each of us independent from the other, but together.
When a camper moves the tables so we can all eat together: a prayer for unity.
When a camper speaks out for the injustices of the world in table talks or in class: a prayer for change.
A prayerful smile for when I’m down. A look into my eyes that tell me I am appreciated and matter.
When a camper gave me a book, Confessions of Saint Augustine, and wrote me a touching note inside: a prayer of compassion.
When a camper is moved to tears and another is right there to comfort them: a prayer of love.
The sound of silence, a depth where no words can reach: a prayer of gratitude to God for your life, for the air that fills your lungs, and the pounding of your heart that sings a song of love.
These are the small stories of YTM that make it special and a beautiful place to not get to know the people of this camp, but to know their soul in which God dwells. Each of us is a living temple to the Holy Spirit. You are holy and everything you do is sacred. God is everywhere and in all things. The earth is sacred. Let every touch be gentle like God takes your hands to guide you. Let every look you give with your eyes be loving. Let your eyes not just see what is exterior, but peer beyond into the eyes of another, a window into their soul. Let every word that spills from your lips speak of kindness, love, and move people to be all they are meant to be. Let every step you take be gentle as you walk on sacred ground. Let it leave an imprint of charity and justice.
What you do matters and every action you take in the world echoes. I pray every single moment of my life. I allow my prayers to live through me, take form and become independent from me. In these actions are prayers, and they are choices; sometimes they are not easy choices, but the right choice. The small living prayers build up to your life. How you live your life should come from your soul, not just be your mask of identity. As Parker J. Palmer says, “Let your life speak.” Your life is a living prayer and can bless the earth and the people around you.
As we leave YTM and travel home, I invite you to think about this. How can you make your life a living prayer? I challenge you to live your life just like this everyday. This is not an easy task, not just simple small actions, but a way of life. How do you choose to live out your life to glorify God? This is a challenging task, but all things are possible through him who gives me strength.
If you allow it, this may change your life. But it is a choice only you can make. This camp is a very special place. Let your life be a giant living prayer–prayers that come to life and become the change in the world that we all want to see.
The Youth in Theology and Ministry program at Saint John’s University School of Theology and Seminary apprentices Catholic leadership youth, counselors, and adult mentors to live as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ.
Learn more about YTM at www.ytm-sju.org.