Crusader Awakening: a worthy experience for students and staff

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Photo courtesy of Gabriel Barba

If you haven’t heard of Crusader Awakening, you simply haven’t walked through Haggar enough. The Crusader Awakening booth is typically manned by an upperclassman with the enthusiasm of a cheerleader and the tenacity of a mall kiosk salesman. 

Similarly to the Rome program, you walk away with stories of how the religious retreat has changed lives and a glimpse of the love and effort that goes into making it a great experience for any student. 

I went to Crusader Awakening for the first time this weekend from Feb. 28 to March 1 with very little information. Certain events and structures later in the weekend are kept secret from new retreatants so that you will get the most out of experiencing them yourself. 

All I knew was that there is a family-like structure involved, since some of my fellow students were “parents.” Despite this lack of information, this single piece of description suggests quirky traditions, like Groundhog, which enrich the student experience and familial quality of the university. 

I decided to give the retreat a chance. 

Crusader Awakening takes place at the Mt. Lebanon retreat center in Cedar Hill, and the University of Dallas group had about fifty retreatants attending, not including staff. 

This year’s “theme verse” was Romans 12:2: “Do not conform yourself to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

One of the strengths of this retreat is that there is something for everyone at different points . If silent meditation or praise and worship isn’t your style, you’ll leave your comfort zone for God for a little while, but then have the opportunity to return back to what you prefer again later.   

This may sound chaotic—in fact, one unexpected fruit of the retreat was being introduced to the term “chaotic discernment” coined by “parents” Rebecca Luna and John Bartee, the latter of whom  co-directed the retreat with Katie Groves. Actually, as the retreat was very well organized and cohesive, it instead achieved the blend of being joyful whilst also bringing out moments of peace. 

I have been on a variety of retreats—varying from ones that were on-and-off silent and strictly led, very silent and gently led, and not silent at all with a high expectation of constant participation. Crusader Awakening is a guide that puts forward things for you to ponder, creates an environment conducive to contemplation and forms a loving community for you to connect with.

Everyone has different preferences for how silent or how structured they would like their ideal retreats to be. To find the right balance, but also to not be complacent in one’s spiritual life, we have to be open to new experiences that we can learn from and apply to our daily lives. 

Crusader Awakening is definitely a worthy learning experience.

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