Melanie DeFrancisco

When it comes to the Kairos retreat, there is really only one word that I can use to describe it: life-changing. Although this unique experience is something that almost cannot be put into words because of how amazing it is, I can explain how much it has touched and changed my own personal life.

Before I went on my own Kairos back in June, I was very confused about the whole retreat. I had a few very close friends in the grade above me that had gone and came back so changed by it and would constantly tell me how much it affected them and that they couldn’t wait for me to finally get to experience it.

So many times I thought to myself, “What could possibly happen in just four small days that can make people who have never talked a day in their lives, suddenly come back friends? How can people who didn’t even want to go in the first place, come back completely loving it? How can people who wanted nothing to do with God before, suddenly come back with a completely different outlook on faith and God?”

These questions were all answered for me in the most special way when I finally got to experience my own Kairos retreat. Contrary to some misconceptions, Kairos is absolutely not a place where you sit down and listen to lectures about religion all day. Kairos is about getting to see God in so many special and unexpected ways.

One of the biggest challenges in living out our faith seems to be going to Mass every Sunday and actively participating in the sacraments. When we think about going to Mass, many people automatically dread it and think it is going to be the most boring hour of our whole week.

Well, on Kairos you not only find yourself enjoying Mass but actually listening to what is being taught instead of allowing the words to just go in one ear and out the other. You truly start to understand the importance of Mass and why we are there and want to be there.

One of the other amazing things I got to experience on Kairos was not only getting to receive the sacrament of reconciliation myself but also watching, if not everyone, almost every single person on the retreat go to confession and coming out of it feeling so relieved and ready to start fresh with God this time, rather than against him.

You also get to experience God through other people and their stories that have led them to be where they are today. You get to share your own stories and open up to others and to God about things that maybe you’ve never really felt comfortable with sharing before because Kairos is 100 percent judgment-free.

Unfortunately, in everyday life, as I’m sure many of us know all too well, it is extremely difficult to not feel judged and very often we can allow our insecurities to get the best of us. However, on this retreat, you can allow yourself to forget about all the worries, fears, doubts and so much more that can unfortunately come with everyday life.

Now I know all of this may seem completely crazy and unrealistic to someone who has not been on a Kairos retreat before, and that is completely understandable! However, if you haven’t experienced this retreat and you ever have the opportunity, take it! I can almost guarantee it will be one of the best decisions of your life. I know it was for me.

I truly believe there is a time and place for everything, and I can’t thank God enough for blessing me with the opportunity to not only go on my own retreat, but then to go back a few months later and get to lead and watch others find God. It is truly an indescribable and life-changing experience that everyone should get to be a part of.

Luckily for all of us, Kairos does not stop after those four days end. Kairos is something that lives on in each of its members for the rest of their lives if they let it. God is present now and always, we just have to let him in, and Kairos is a place where we can finally really see that door to God being wide open.

We all need God, and he’s calling each and every one of us to something so special and so much bigger than ourselves. He is calling each of us to open up the door and let him come into our lives and change it all for the better. The only question that seems to be left is: will we let him?

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For the first time in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, a Kairos retreat will be offered to Catholic public school students and home-schooled students. Read more about the retreat here.

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Melanie DeFrancisco is a senior at Archbishop Carroll High School, Radnor, and a member of Epiphany of Our Lord Parish, Plymouth Meeting.