There are a lot more than ten reasons, I promise! But sadly I’m writing a blog post and not a novel so I had to limit myself.
After number one they are in no particular order!
- Jesus – Liturgy of the Hours, daily rosaries, daily Divine Mercy Chaplets, and DAILY MASS. That doesn’t even include all the ways that you experience Him though other people and the world around you. The prayer life of a Totus Tuus summer is what I dream of during the school year. It takes a lot of discipline and accountability that many of us fail to find in the midst of academic and career stress. But I am happily still swimming in all of those summer graces.
- Other teachers –Building friendships on the basis of Christ Himself is incredibly powerful. Those ten days of training are more than enough to build bonds that last a lifetime. And that may sound cheesy, but I swear to you it is true. No friendships are stronger than those build around faith in Christ. Whenever I make plans to meet up with one of my fellow teachers I am overcome with a happiness that permeates my heart and soul. This heart and soul happiness is because I know that I will not only encounter them, but will encounter Christ living and thriving in them.
- Your team – When you spend all day every day with the same people, you walk away a family. My team showed me how to be myself, my true, goofy, shy self that doesn’t shut up once she opens up to you. They challenged me in my faith by the beautiful examples I saw in each of them day-in and day-out. They trusted and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Your team shows you how to live out love in a new way, on good days and bad days and all the days in between.
- First through sixth graders – I was amazed at how much I enjoyed the day program; I am a secondary education major, after all. I was nervous for this program but there was no reason to be. The younger ones say the darnedest thing and the older ones have questions galore. Every class period was a surprise. Oh, and they have the biggest hearts.
- Middle and high schoolers – This is where the connections are made. It doesn’t happen often, but students open up to you about their prayer lives and struggles and their vulnerability can be very inspiring. The curriculum is also more laid back for them than for the little kids. It is mostly about sharing personal faith stories and developing fellowship, although we pray together as well.
- Princess Palace and Knights Court – The phrase “daughter of God” used to make me flinch. I knew it but I struggled to believe it of myself. Every day between Mass and lunch, Sydney and I took the 1-6th grade girls and Jon and James took the boys. The girls learned about how to act like a daughter of God our King and Mary our Queen. The boys learned how to be gentlemen and how they should treat the ladies. At the end of the week, the girls are crowned and the boys are knighted. After each crowning my heart was a little more open to the idea. It was a little easier to have faith “like a child.” I truly cannot put into words the looks that some girls gave us at the crowning. It was a joy that could be rooted only in their soul. (That is to say, it’s a joy very different than the “we’re going to Disney” type of joy.) And when one of my sixth graders objected that someone had to crown me? Yeah, my heart melted and I crouched down so she could reach me.
- The families – Every night we had supper with a different family from the parish. Some were awkward. But oh my did we get a beautiful view of family life for that one hour! Younger kids show us their toys. Parents with kids out of the house take time to point out all the family photos and tell us the cool things their kids are up to. Older students show off their hobbies and musical talents. It is always an adventure. Their love is so incredibly evident; not only their love for each other, but also their love for us and what we do, for the complete strangers that they welcome and feed out of the kindness of their hearts.
- Silly songs – Yes, this really is a positive! If you can stand up and direct 30-60 kids in the banana song while parents and older siblings come in and (every once in a while) pull out their phones, then you can do anything.
- Vulnerability – I know that this is a scary word. Trust me. I know. But there is no safer environment than your team to practice living it. And if you can turn around and share your story with middle and high school students, who are so grateful to have an example, then how could it not be easier to share with those who know and love you? Notice that I did not say that it becomes easy. Only easier. It is definitely a journey but while you’re teaching Totus Tuus you have to speed walk down this road instead of shuffling your feet. It is a beautiful challenge.
- Team Date Day/Team Adventure – Our Date Day was Tuesday, called JP-Twosdays after our team patron. Every Tuesday we would use our free time in the afternoon to go on adventures. Sometimes this just meant getting ice cream and trying to leave behind the Totus Tuus talk for an hour. Sometimes this meant adventuring a few towns over, like the week we went to the smallest town in the state of Nebraska (Monowi, Population 1). Team Adventures included trips to Iowa ( . . . ew.), South Dakota, and, for James and I, our first ever rodeo.
As you can tell, there are a lot of ways to grow during Totus Tuus and they are by no means easy. But nothing in a Totus Tuus summer is unrewarding. There are abundant graces and so many different ways to change your own relationship with Christ and to inspire and help others do the same. As someone said at our end of the year retreat, “Totus Tuus is a lifestyle.” If you are at all present spiritually then a summer of Totus Tuus affects a lot more than just that one summer. It makes changes your relationship with Christ, it changes how you see yourself as His daughter or son, and it results in a lifelong desire to live Totus Tuus.