International Augustinian Youth Encounter

I went to London… When I filled out my customs form to return to the US, I checked the box that said the purpose of my visit was primarily “business.”  And it was.  I am sure the majority of people uninvolved in the AYE saw that I was in London and Ireland thought that I just decided I wanted to travel there.  Well, indeed Ireland was in the top three places that I wanted to travel to in the near future, I would not have chosen it, had I not been in London for “business.”

The International Augustinian Youth Encounters have been happening for several years.  They started in Northern Italy, and were an opportunity for the youth from Augustinian parishes and schools to join together to celebrate Augustinian spirituality, friendship, and our common discipleship in Christ.  There might be a lot of correlation with contemporary youth ministry.  Apparently, up until recently, or so I hear, youth ministry was one and the same as education ministry, or whatever you had to get young people to memorize the catechism.  Today, youth ministry is much more holistic.  It involves prayer, and learning, as well as music, dancing, sports, partying, junk food, games, and maybe a movie.

This year, the Augustinian youth ministries of England and Scotland were the hosts.  They organized the week long program around themes from Augustine.  Daily prayers and Liturgies were organized from one of the several international groups.  Our California group planned one Friday mass, where we tried to encourage more silent awe of the transcendent mystery of God, a discipline that often gets misplaced in youth ministry catering to our youthful need for more noise.  and the kids didn’t have a huge problem with it.

There is also a gift in encountering someone from somewhere around the world, who is obviously different, and finding you are one.  The tradition we have, is the festival of nations.  A lot of the cultural exchange went on, and the groups form Argentina, Spain, China, Indonesia, Czech Republic, and Slovakia had some amazing dances.  The groups from Italy, Australia and Canada had no shortage of humor.  The American presentation was a bit cliche, in my own opinion using the “melting pot” image for our proud mixture of culture.  If I had time to organize, I may have preferred something like Jazz, or Swing Dance, a thoroughly American affair.  Aside from that, I really enjoyed that night we celebrated together.

Thursday we made a trip to Clare Priory, an Augustinian house dating to the 13th century, the very beginnings of our foundation.  The experience of being in a place with so much history was mystical to say the least.  We also made a trip to Cambridge.  The spiritual tradition and history of the college chapel we visited added to our awe.  the following day the English and Scottish youth put on a prayerful drama of Augustine’s life that was beautifully done.  The inclusion of Adoration in the afternoon made for a prayerful day, aside from all the time we spent with dancing or football.  

The best part, in all this, however, had been all the new people that I met, as well as reuniting with all of those I met at the previous Augustinian Youth Encounter in Sydney Australia.  Of course with Facebook, all those relationships carry on.

Now, for business, it hardly seemed like business at all.  I was a presenter.  In the middle of the week, the kids had the opportunity to chose one of several workshops discussing issues of social justice or Augustinian Spirituality.  I was asked to present on Hip Hop, which in some way encompasses both.  Hip Hop, as is, is concerned with Social Justice.  My own personal Hip Hop music that I presented is concerned with Augustinian Spirituality.  I also wanted to set the record straight on Hip Hop Culture as I learned it in contrast to the awful stuff in the mass media entertainment industry.  The only downside had been that I would thus be incapable of attending the other workshops put on by other awesome Augustinian friars that I would have likely enjoyed.

Then somewhere along the lines I did some site seeing.  Although I admit my visit to Ireland was sometimes more of a pilgrimage than a vacation… a holiday if you will.

Argentina, 2013 will follow, and I am already plotting.

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