By Farrah Ballou – Class of 2019
Archbishop Mitty High School (AMHS) conducts 21 retreats each school year. Class level retreats create life-changing experiences which allow students to get closer to God, themselves, and the community around them. Last year, I went on my sophomore retreat called Agape. The word Agape is used to describe God’s unconditional and ongoing love for his creations. The theme of the retreat revolves around the idea of understanding and integrating this unconditional love into our lives. At the heart of the retreat is a passage from John’s Gospel, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13: 34-35). The chapter from John depicts Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, exemplifying God’s unconditional love for us all.
On the retreat, we reflected on the idea that God made all of us lovingly and that every part of us is beautiful and should not be shielded. At Agape, we participated in a mask activity where we used plaster to make masks that covered our faces. The mask symbolized the barrier that we sometimes put up to shade people from the parts of ourselves that we are afraid to share with others. At the end of the activity, we each removed the mask from our face as a reminder that we would open ourselves up to others and most importantly, be able to remove the barrier that keeps us from unconditionally loving ourselves. Throughout the retreat, we focused on Agape love and how we could use it to be more genuine and to learn to love ourselves and the gifts that we have been given by God.
Moreover, the idea of Agape love extended from loving ourselves to also loving one another unconditionally. At the retreat, we were called to really lift the barriers we might put up and to embrace and support one another as brothers and sisters. At AMHS, retreats provide a safe place for everyone to share their struggles and receive encouragement and care. On Agape, we were urged to see one another as children of God and our jobs were to love one another, just like God does.
Retreats have provided me with an experience that is different from anything that I’ve experienced. They provide me with the rare opportunity to deeply reflect on my life. Most importantly, they allow me to see what positive changes I can make to live life happily and with faith. Additionally, the bonds that are made on Agape are indescribable and the friendships created are the epitome of how God wants us to love one another.
For more information about the retreats held at AMHS, go to the school’s Campus Ministry page, mitty.com/campus-ministry.