Where are you going?

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In Christian tradition, when St. Peter was fleeing persecution in Rome, he met the risen Christ on the Via Appia walking toward the city. Peter asked him "Quo vadis?" or "Where are you going?"

Jesus responded, "I am going to Rome to be crucified again."

That dialogue with Jesus gave Peter the courage to return to his ministry in Rome - and to eventual martyrdom.

In the Arlington Diocese, Quo Vadis Days is an annual summer event that draws dozens of high school boys to Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., for five days of prayer and fun all designed to help young men discern a vocation. That vocation is not only one to the priesthood or religious life, but also to the married or consecrated life.

The camp is organized by Father Joel D. Jaffe, Arlington diocesan vocations director. Fiat Days for young women, also organized by the vocations office, was held July 12-16 at the seminary.

This year, 115 young men signed up for the camp, with 40 on the waitlist.

Father Jaffe said that the camp filled in three days.

"We don't have to do a lot of advertising," he said. "We're trying to fulfill a need."

The first day of Quo Vadis Days, July 26, saw campers and their parents arriving in the afternoon to collect IDs, shirts and instructions for the week.

Many of the boys knew one another before coming to camp, while others made new friends.

Some campers had siblings who are priests or religious, or had attended the retreat in the past.

Christopher Bergida, a rising junior at Chelsea Academy in Front Royal, is the brother of Father Joseph D. Bergida, parochial vicar of St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Clifton, who encouraged his participation.

Kyle Hartmann, a rising sophomore at Potomac Falls High School in Potomac Falls and an altar server at Our Lady of Hope Church in Potomac Falls, said he heard about Quo Vadis at church and learned about the group on the Internet.

Hartmann's mother, Val, was happy for her son's interest.

"He's had a very spiritual attitude recently, and he's been looking forward to this week," she said.

The highlight of the day was Mass celebrated by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception.

The chapel filled quickly with camp participants and their families, as seminarians sang hymns in Latin.

In his homily, Bishop Loverde spoke on the day's Gospel - the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.

The bishop said that five people are named in the Gospel: Jesus, Philip, Andrew and Simon Peter. Not named is a boy with five loaves and two fishes.

"Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to Him, 'There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?'" (Jn 6:8-9).

The bishop said that although unnamed, "I propose him as the person on whom we should focus."

Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes provided by the boy, and He is still providing for a hungry population.

"The Lord Jesus sees even many more people who hunger, not for food as such, but for meaning and purpose. They hunger to love and to be loved. Their hearts are hungering to be satisfied, to be really fulfilled," said Bishop Loverde.

The bishop told the young men that they should offer all they have to Jesus so He can use their talents to satisfy hungry hearts.

The bishop went on to tell the boys that throughout the Quo Vadis week, and throughout their lives, they should: open their minds and hearts to God; listen to their heart not their feelings; and consult wise people to help them be aware of God's plans.

When Mass ended, the participants ran to their rooms to change for dinner and the evening's activities. Isaac Cotnoir, a rising freshman at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries, stopped long enough to say that he had always admired the bishop's homilies and found this one particularly important.

That evening after dinner, parents left their sons for five days so the young men could pray and work with others to begin to answer the question, "Quo vadis?", "Where are you going?"

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015