Wednesday November 30, 2016

Christ in the Chaos

By Kaitlynrose Bicek

6:32 am. July 30th. Elgin, Illinois. BUM BUM BUM GOOD MORNING!!! “You’ve got to be kidding me” I mutter. My phone is literally screaming at me as I slide the screen for 10 more minutes of sleep. The whole night, after hitting the hay around 1 am, I woke up every hour having weird dreams about losing one of the first/second graders in my class, or my team leader being mad at me for screwing up the schedule. Needless to say, sleep was not my friend that night. I see my teammate, my alarm woke her up. She is groggily wandering to the shower in our host family’s house. The first thing I see every morning and the last thing I see every night is her. Our door is left open and I look across the hall, the eldest son of our host family is in that room, in his boxers, looking for his pants. I roll over and go to back to sleep, with the knowledge that there is already coffee downstairs. BUM BUM BUM

Why in their right mind would a college Junior get up every day at 6:30 am, spend 8 hours teaching elementary age kids, get a two hour break, eat dinner, minister to teens until at least 9:15 pm with three other college students they’ve never met before, for an entire summer?

For Christ.

Christ called me and my teammates to dedicate our summers to Him through the Totus Tuus program in the mighty Diocese of Rockford. We poured out 110% of our energy, attention, and fun into the children and teens. Christ called us to check our dignity at the door by becoming sheep,  forcing my teammates to do squats, screwing up the angelus in front of 100 kids, and by experiencing a voice crack in the middle of singing for mass. Christ called us to learn patience as kids bolted from one side of the room to the other for twenty minutes with no end in sight. Christ called us to be vulnerable with the teens as we opened up about past relationships, our family struggles, and where/when we’ve fallen from His plan. Christ called our team to become a family, with my Team Lead being grandpa, my Co-Lead being the wise older sister, myself the quiet middle, and my teammate being the rowdy brother, each of us adding our own dynamic to the chaos and beauty that was a week of Totus Tuus.

Mostly though, Christ called us to love and to be loved. A week before leaving to do TT, one of my old Totus Tuus teachers shot me a message on facebook giving me a bit of advice. “What you don’t yet realize is what TT actually is, allowing the Lord to soften your heart through the words of children and the different ways you’ll encounter His presence in them this summer. The summer stretches you to lengths that are sometimes uncomfortable but that’s sometimes how God works, expanding your heart, sometimes uncomfortably, so you can love more deeply.” I remember being taken aback when I received that message for fear of the future, and I am taken aback now because of how true it became.

The moments I began to doubt and despair, those little ones and those teens gave me hope again. I can recall being on the brink of tears from exhaustion when a third grader, whose name I didn't’t even know yet, ran up and hugged me, then ran away. It was exactly what I needed in that moment, and it was Christ who had given it to me, through this girl. One day my teammate sarcastically called me a terrible teacher after hearing I let the kids play a game, and I began to doubt myself. After the next class I taught, the high school helper in the room told me I should switch my major to elementary education. I needed reassurance and Christ put that helper there to do so. Sitting in daily mass that same week, Father begins quizzing the kids, and I am just praying they know the answers. Father proclaims they get an A for the day, and a fourth grader response with “My first A!” My whole team was rolling in the pews, it eased some of the tensions that had been brewing, as that was our seventh week of being together. As much as Christ was supporting us to love these kids and teens and minister to them, He was working through them to minister to us.

I have never cried harder or laughed harder than in my time as a Totus Tuus teacher. I truly felt every single emotion in the most genuine way possible. I can truly say that it was the best summer of my life. We were giving our all in His name for that whole summer. But Christ had already given us His all, that day on Calvary. He loves us so much that He already made the ultimate sacrifice 2000 years ago, and is continuing to pour out His love for us. I never saw it fully in action, until I taught Totus Tuus, and as I look back at my life I can see it now every step of the way. Christ is living and present. It took those kids with their pure love and trust, those teens with their openness, and my teammates with their guidance, to understand that love, and to allow my heart to move towards it. Christ is moving in us, with us, and around us to simply love. I would get up at 6:30 am every day, for the rest of my life, for that love.

Edited by: Tori Schoen and Ben Swick

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