It is not just A mountain. It is THE Mountain.
Mt. Irenaeus was created as a home away from home for those at university and those from any background. This community is rooted in Franciscan values and is home to six of the most amazing men that I have ever met. Even though I became part of this community later in my schooling, it quickly took over my heart. I can not imagine my life without this place and the people involved with it.
The Mountain truly is a community. Even though I use it to 'get away' each weekend, it does not come without work. When you step foot into the House of Peace (the main house) you became a member of the family. Overnights usually put you at the mountain for approximately 24 hours. During your stay you will work, cook, clean, share and reflect with those around you.
I just returned from such an overnight. We left campus around 2pm on Sunday and settled in at the Mountain just before 3pm. As usual, we began by coming together in a circle to introduce ourselves (usually your name and the answer to whatever ice-breaker question was asked) and go over the plan for the trip. It was so great to see so many familiar and loving faces as we shared "the best thing that happened over winter break." Since this was the first overnight of the semester and was for the members of the Mountain Community Leaders (a group on campus) we were given an hour of free time on the land and encouraged to get to know new people. I ended up taking a winter hike with a group of people that I did not know well but became very close to.
Next came the work. We were split into work groups to each help the friars in some way. My group (and eventually everyone else) stacked wood into the shed so that the friars would have it through the winter. These are some of my favorite times. It is so rewarding to work with everyone for a common good. We all tell stories, laugh and have a great time with these work projects.
Once the wood was stacked, we came in to warm up and begin cooking dinner. While a group made dinner, the rest of us brought our belongings to our rooms/cabins and prepared for the night. We prayed around the food that was prepared by our friends and then ate together at the table over delicious food and scrumptious conversations. Again, we helped everyone clean up our dishes after the meal...like families do!
As usual, there was a program after dinner. We took a meditative walk and ended in a circle in the basement of the house. There, we read from the Bible, reflected on ourselves as part of this group, how we can better ourselves and the group and what our mission statement means to each of us as individuals. We then entered into wonderfully deep and meaningful discussions. I always enjoy this part of the night because I learn so much from every person there and I grow with each participant. After a prayer and the sign of peace, we were given free reign of the night.
We held a bonfire which consisted of snow ball throwing, running away from embers, smores and laughing until it hurt. Some of us then returned to the house for hot tea and warm conversations. The conversational dynamics shifted consistently. I spoke with so many special people about so many topics. Eventually, a group of us settled in in a sitting area and told stories of our pasts. There is so much to learn about this diverse group.
As the night grew darker, parts of the group moved on to bed. While I am usually in bed by 10 or 11, I was up until 2:30am talking with some great guys. We were able to become great friends in such a short amount of time. That is the magic of The Mountain. The release of inhibitions allows people to bond with others overnight.
After a few hours of sleep, Sunday consisted of the usual group reflections, mass and brunch before coming back to campus.
I feel so happy right now. Cloud Nine.
Words cannot express what I feel for this place. What I have written here does it no justice. I am sure that I will write again about this place in a much more fulfilling way. These friars have become my family. They mean so much to me, have saved me more times than they know, and I value each of them differently. While I know that "you never graduate from the mountain," it is going to be so hard to say goodbye at the end of this semester.