Synergy is defined as, “the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements or contributions,” and this is exactly what occurs at the end of many of our Retreat Days, when the young people share with us the liturgy they have organised.
Many young people’s experience of liturgy is limited. Some no longer attend weekly Mass and might only have experience of those liturgies celebrated within the life of their school. These are often prepared by staff who select a few young people to participate by reading or bringing up gifts. Rarely do the young people have much input into the choice of music for the occasion, the way the space will be organised to create a prayerful atmosphere, the readings that will be chosen, or the prayers and reflections that will be read.
Here in our Centre we invite the young people to take charge of all of these elements, giving them complete responsibility for and ownership of their liturgy. Each young person is asked to volunteer to help organise one of five elements.
These elements are:
- Focus – Creating a prayerful atmosphere in the Chapel using cloths and candles and explaining during the Prayer Service what the design means.
- Music – Choosing a song to open the Prayer Service and one to close it, giving a reason why they have chosen each one. Sometimes the song is chosen from our iPod but some groups choose to sing and often young people bring musical instruments with them to enhance the liturgy.
- Scripture – Choosing a passage from Scripture and deciding how they are going to present it during the Prayer Service, for example as a drama, a mime, a poster, or series of pictures, or any other format they wish; and giving reasons why they have chosen this passage.
- Prayers – writing and reading out their own prayers, which can be as general or as personal or as short or as long as they wish.
- Reflection – reflecting on the themes and issues raised during the Retreat Day itself. This can take the form of a poem, a piece of prose, a poster, an acrostic or a dance, to name but a few. The young people decide and they present and explain their reflection to everyone during the Prayer Service.
Depending on the number of pupils on Retreat we would usually have between three and six young people organising each element.
This is where the synergy comes in, for although each group will go to a different room or space in the Centre to organise their element and will be unaware of what those in the other groups have chosen to do, it often happens that when we come together for the Prayer Service in the Chapel, the elements flow seamlessly, one to the other. The Spirit is at work.
The young people bring their whole day to this celebration and it is always lively and joyous, prayerful and respectful.
Our team looks forward to this time in a special way, for although each Retreat Day ends with a Prayer Service, the joy for us is how different they are from one day to the next, because so much of the personality of each group goes into it. And whilst we have a structure or if you like, a formula, within which we bring together these elements, the Prayer Service is never structured or formulaic.
Of course it can happen on occasion that we have a Prayer Service where it seems that the elements are so varied as to be all-over-the-place, and the synergy seems non-existent, but we trust that the Spirit, moving ever mysteriously, is still at work.
“His word can cut through our spirits and souls and through our joints and marrow, until it discovers the desires and thoughts of our hearts.” Hebrews 4:12
As the young people leave our Centre at the end of each day our wish for each one of them is, “May God continue what he has begun in you.“ John Baptist De La Salle