Blog/CYM Blog It’s Time to Let go of the Rocks in Your Life by Mike Clauberg I think sometimes in youth ministry, it’s easy to fall into the trap of overloading ourselves with worry and doubt – wondering how we’re going to pull off the next Life Night or what we can possibly do to top that last retreat. In getting caught up in that, we can forget to nourish ourselves with Scripture, prayer, and the Sacraments. It’s hard to be inspired when we’re not paying attention to our heavenly Father, the one who inspires everyone and everything. So, what’s my game plan for escaping what I like to call this “dead sea” period of ministry? I’ll let you in on my secret. A few years back, during one of these difficult phases, I decided to attend Life Teen’s “spring training” at Covecrest. It combines the experience of a retreat with the necessary planning for your parish with national Life Teen staff and fellow youth ministers from all over the country. Although I didn’t receive the attention that NY mets and NY Yankees get during their pre-season spring training, I found something much more rewarding. I had the opportunity to connect and pray with so many of my amazing colleagues, and it was there that I experienced what it means to be inspired – both by God and by those He put in my path. One sunny afternoon, I found myself heading back to my cabin at Covecrest and completely avoiding the opportunity to go to Confession. “I can go anytime,” I thought as I walked by several priests who were generously spending hours hearing Confessions. I just wasn’t feeling inspired to go. “Hey New Yorker!” a woman I had just met yelled from across the way. “Where do you think you’re going?” I was caught! Like a high school freshman, I stumbled over my words as I told her I was going back to my cabin. “Oh no, you’re not going to do that – you’re going to Confession,” she stated matter-of-factly. She didn’t even know me, but her honesty, tenacity and support as a sister in Christ inspired me to take the sacramental plunge and to ultimately have one of the most amazing reconciliation experiences of my life. Without her giving me the courage I would not have gone. After I finished my Confession, the priest said to me, “I want you to find a rock.” I looked at him quizzically. “When you are ready to be free of your sins, throw the rock in the water,” he instructed. I thought this was great! The easiest penance ever! So I walked to a quiet part of the lake, found a rock and prepared to throw it. I must have spent over an hour trying to toss that rock in the water, holding it in my hand like I still held the shame of my sins in my heart – there was fear, worry, doubt. It’s hard sometimes to let go, to actually let ourselves be forgiven. But I knew I couldn’t complete my task until I had a heart-to-heart with my Maker. Suddenly, I found myself having an intimate conversation with God, one I hadn’t taken time to have in awhile. I talked out my problems, I cried (don’t tell my friends from the Bronx!), I laughed and ultimately I let go. When I heard the rock plunge into the water, I felt the weight of my fears slip away, and my love and appreciation for my Savior grew ten-fold. Before I threw that rock, I heard many other rocks hit the water. I thought to myself, how many other people went and told their Confession…and how they may have had an awesome experience just like me. No matter who you are or what state of life you’re in, I want to encourage you to make sure you’re going to Confession on a consistent basis. Especially if you’re in ministry, this sacrament has really helped me to not fall into the cycle of worry and dryness in ministry. I just recently made another Confession that was long overdue. When I start to fall into the trap of wanting to put off Confession, I’m reminded of the inspiration I get from a man whose life was an example of mercy and forgiveness. Recently, Detective Steve McDonald passed away. He was a NYPD officer who was shot by a teenager in central park. He survived as a quadriplegic but forgave the shooter and has preached forgiveness at countless churches, schools, and Police trainings. He was truly a living Saint, and preached to Live Mercy each and every day. At his funeral, his son closed in prayer as Detective McDonald would always do, with the peace prayer of St. Francis. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of putting prayer, sacraments, and forgiveness off. Sometimes we need to force ourselves to Center our lives on the Eucharist, go to Confession and just as God forgives us, forgive those who have offended us, or hurt us. Then say the peace prayer of St. Francis in gratitude, just like Detective Steve McDonald. No matter how long it takes… let go of the rock. Allow God to forgive you and watch what happens. Go out on the limb, and forgive others and invest in some time before the Blessed Sacrament, going to Confession, and praying for peace. You never know who you may inspire to do the same.