Every year, John Paul II Seminary hosts the Ride for Vocations in southern Maryland. Starting with Mass at Sacred Heart Parish in La Plata, various routes take riders 21, 50, 70, or 100 miles through the countryside. The ride is a way both to offer prayer and sacrifice for vocations in our diocese and to enjoy fellowship and recreation with other seminarians, priests, and laity. This year, the ride took place on October 9th after being postponed because of Hurricane Ian.
Up to a few weeks before the ride, I wasn’t sure I would be able to participate. Through the donation of a bike from a generous benefactor, however, I found myself on that bike, attempting to complete the 50 mile course. Before the ride, I had taken up biking for about a month and only had biked 20 miles at a time, so the experience was brand new.
Throughout the day, I was hit with tiredness, sore legs, and the desire to just give up. I was definitely in a situation out of my comfort zone. However, what kept me going on the bike was not the desire to say that I had completed the ride, but the feeling of gratitude for being in God’s creation. The experience brought me back to what it was like to be outside on my bike as a kid, when I was unphased by the worries and responsibilities of daily life.
For many people in the world, Sunday has become just another day to gain ground in various pursuits. Sunday has been lost as a day of rest, of return to the beauty of creation, and of thanksgiving for the blessings God has granted us. Hence, it was a great gift to celebrate the Lord’s Day by riding through the backroads of southern Maryland, seeing the changing color of the leaves, and breathing in that crisp fall air. The quiet of Sunday allowed me to open my heart to contemplate the glory of God’s wonder in the world.
Along the route, the Archdiocese set up prayer stops in which we could stop for a couple of minutes, rest, and pray and give thanks to the Lord. As a result, I was able to stop in at various churches to grab a quick snack and pray. These stops gave me a chance to put into words the graces that the Lord put on my heart during the ride and throughout the semester. I could not help but give thanks to God for the gift of my family, friends, and new seminarian brothers.
My first semester of seminary has been marked with so many graces and joys. Of those, reclaiming Sunday as a day of rest and appreciating God’s creation has been one of the greatest. The Ride for Vocations gave me a great opportunity to return to a childlike attitude in which I could more fully receive and appreciate the gifts that God has given me.
Mr. Lawrence is a First Pre-Theologian for the Archdiocese of Washington.