The Kairos retreat was a huge thing at my high school for juniors and seniors. People used to claim that you went away for four days to be brainwashed and you would come back totally and irreversibly “Kai-high.”
I went through stages of forming an opinion on Kairos. Freshman and Sophomore year, the majority of my friends were juniors and seniors. One of my closest friends went on the retreat and loved it so much! She was someone whose opinion I knew I could trust. I decided then that I could not wait to be able to go on the Kairos retreat. The next year, when I was a junior, my best friend went on this retreat. Now, when people come back from Kairos they follow one of two paths: they have a fantastic experience and come back happy and open and pick back up where they left off, OR they have a fantastic experience but take the whole meaning of Kairos the wrong way and dump all their friends and cling desperately to their “kairos friends” and are forever changed…for the worst! My best friend followed that second, not so good path. It happens to a fair amount of people who go, but no one predicted it happening to him. Let’s just call him Joe. Joe and I met my freshman year and had at that time been inseparable for about three years. He came back a completely different person, and I couldn’t understand it. That was when I decided that I would never ever go on Kairos. I didn’t want to come back and abandon all my friends and do to them what Joe did to me.
Well, senior year rolled around and I signed up for Kairos. I can’t say what happens or what I experienced because the secret is the biggest and best part about it. But I loved it. And I didn’t follow the dark path of no return. I talk of it lightly now, but it really was a devastating thing to experience. Your best friend whom you know everything about and who knows everything about you, going away for four days and coming back and telling you that he found real friends who really care about him and understand him more than you ever could.
Excuse me, what?
Enough ranting, that’s just the back story to my main point.
Religious retreats such as Kairos are aimed at creating a strengthening the bond between peers. It’s all about realizing that there is way more to the people around you than you think. Most people wouldn’t consider bonding activities ways of interacting with the sacred, but there were various moments during the retreat when I felt as though we, as a group, experienced something sacred.
I went to a Catholic high school so the other participants in the retreat were all Catholic. Our common belief probably played a pretty significant role in our experience. It’s easier to share an experience like that when you share the same religious beliefs. I wonder, however, if my college were to have a Kairos retreat, or any religious retreat similar to it, would having people of varied beliefs affect the experience. Can a group of people with different beliefs share in a sacred experience together? Can you still mediate the sacred together if you have different ideas about the sacred?
It’s definitely something I would like to see happen. Kairos was the greatest experience ever for me, and I would love to bring that kind of experience to my school.