They spent weeks rehearsing. They built an entire two-tier stage set, wrote a modern day mystery play on the prodigal son, choreographed dance moves, and composed compelling music to accompany the story. The members of the Our Lady of Hope Community of the international Comunita Cenacolo came to South Carolina. They braved the one-way streets of Charleston, the confusing Highway 17 junction in Georgetown, and the multiplicity of exits leading into Columbia. Driving from Florida, they journeyed through the diocese in order to share a message.
It’s a simple message: God loves us more than we can ever understand. Each of us needs God, and when we don’t have him we turn to something else. Perhaps drugs. Maybe alcohol. Perhaps misguided sexuality. The men and women of the Cenacolo understand this fallenness. Each of them has chosen the darker side of life’s options in the past, and each of them, relying on God and his grace, is seeking to put drug and other addictions behind them. So, while they use drama and the arts, the message isn’t merely a play or just a presentation, it’s a very real decision, crossroad, and challenge, which each of us must make. Will we accept God’s love and live by it, or will we seek something else and live by that instead?
The Cenacolo members presented the “yes” to that question, and showed the abundant life that is received by choosing to follow God and his counsels. Their delivery is given through a play on the prodigal son, but in a provocative and creative manner, which presents the options of light and darkness and invites an answer.
At Bishop England High School on Oct. 8, the freshmen and sophomores gave the Cenacolo a standing ovation. The message clearly hit home.
On Oct. 10 at the Rosary Celebration in North Myrtle Beach, Jimmy Hesson and Anthony Kendall of the Cenacolo shared their stories of conversion. They spoke of the joy they have now, following Christ and free from addiction.
At Cardinal Newman High School on Oct. 11, the group presented their drama to freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. The intense dialogue of the play gave the truths of the Gospel and encouraged the students to make choices that foster a happy and grace-filled life.
After four days on the mission trail in South Carolina, the members of the Cenacolo dismantled their stage set, packed things up, and offered prayers to God for the people, especially the youth, who heard and saw their message.
They made this pilgrimage to share the truth, which has transformed their lives. They traveled here to the Palmetto State as simple witnesses to God’s love, to freedom from sin, and to joyful hope. As they would say, love conquers all and death never has the last word. They have gone back to Florida, but the truths of the Gospel which they have shared will live on in the hearts of those who saw and heard their message.
Jeff Kirby is a seminarian of the Diocese of Charleston. He is spending a pastoral year at Prince of Peace Church in Taylors.