What is NCYC you ask? It is National Catholic Youth Conference, an amazing spiritual journey for high school students across the nation. It is generally the weekend before Thanksgiving, Thursday evening to Sunday evening, and only every other year. My older sister went when she was in high school and loved it, so naturally I wanted to go SO BAD. I patiently waited and participated in every fundraiser with my youth group until the time finally came for me to take my journey sophomore year. At first, I was mainly excited for the people, the boys I would see, maybe even talk to, but I didn’t know what was actually going to happen.
When we got in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, the pre-opening entertainment, you could think of it as the “hype-men” of NCYC. My group found where we were going to sit, and I immediately went to the stage where a huge group of people were dancing and having a good time. When it was time to start, I had a feeling that something was going on that I wasn’t aware of. Throughout my first experience, I reveled in just how many Catholic people there were from ages 14 to 18 hailing from all over the nation. I also felt something moving in my heart, but I wasn’t sure what. All I knew was how great God was and how excited I was for my next chance to go.
Finally, the time came to go back. In those two years, a lot had happened. I had a crush on a boy (probably more than a crush), had my heart broken, and also my uncle was in a bad motorcycle accident which left the right side of his body paralyzed. So, needless to say, it was a hard couple of years. When I walked into Lucas Oil Stadium for the second year, I felt embraced, like greeting an old friend.
Sighing in relief, I began to walk toward the stage, my happy place. As silly as it sounds, I asked God to give me a sign while I was there. I didn’t know what I was looking for, that everything would be okay? I don’t know. To let me know I will be able to move on? I truly don’t know, but I was going through my “questioning” phase in my faith. It was hard to see my uncle, who once stood tall and crack jokes left and right, to seeing him sitting in a wheelchair all the time and can hardly form sentences, often even words. I couldn’t understand why God would do this to such a good man.
On the last day of the conference, I received my sign. I was sitting in a large room with a lot of people listening to Mark Hart talk. If you ever have a chance to listen to him, definitely do so! Anyway, he starts off by telling funny stories and then he gets deep. This particular talk at a certain part, he had us close our eyes and imagine that we were sitting in church praying and someone walks in. They walk right up to you and wait.
You think "The whole church is empty...why would someone come right by you to sit?" You decide to look up, and it’s Jesus. Mark then asked the question, “What would you say? Can you say anything at all? Can you look him in the eyes?” As he was asking us these questions, I felt a presence come up the aisle by me. When it came the time to answer, I couldn't. I couldn’t look him in the eyes. I couldn't say a single word. I started to cry. I didn’t know why I couldn’t look him in the eyes or say anything. Maybe it was because I felt unworthy to look at him because of how much I had questioned or doubted Him. I couldn’t leave my seat to cry in private. My butt was glued to my seat.
Leaving that talk, I had a lot to think about. After praying these last two years, I realized that God doesn’t want you to feel unworthy to look at him or be in his presence. That’s why he walks up to you. He wants to take your hand and walk with you through life, and when life seems to be seemingly unbearable, He will carry you in his arms.
In my years since NCYC, friends have come and gone, as has graduation, high school teachers, and my “teen” status. But the one thing that will never leave me is my faith in God.
All the time, God is Good! God is good...