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To Be Like Teresa

** Today's post is written by Katie Yankoski, youth minister at St Edward the Confessor Catholic Church and actor in the World Youth Day performances of The Jeweler's Shop: a meditation on the sacrament of matrimony, passing on occasion into a drama. **

I want to be like Teresa.

Who is Teresa? Teresa is one of seven characters in “The Jeweler’s Shop: A Meditation on the Sacrament of Matrimony, Passing on Occasion into a Drama,” a play written by St. John Paul the Great when he was still known as Karol Wojtyla, Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow. Teresa starts off the play in Act 1 with the announcement that she just got engaged to Andrew on the right side of the market square, and by the end of the act, she and Andrew see how their marriage will reflect Heaven’s Love within the world. Most importantly, Teresa is the character I was lucky enough to be when we performed this play in Poland during World Youth Day.

Backing it up… World Youth Day. I still can’t believe it happened! In the two weeks that I’ve been back in Richmond, tons of people have asked me “how was it?” and “what was your favorite part?” Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin! Do I share goofy stories of bus ride games and delicious (and cheap!) pierogi meals? Should I tell them about the cramped tram rides and the long walks home to our hotel? Should I start with the fact that there is a Catholic Church on every block of central Krakow and that we got to visit the relics of three saints within a mile of each other? Do I tell them about the spiritual high of celebrating a Mass with 2 million people, waving their flags in a way that I imagine is similar to John’s Revelation when all of the nations are gathered at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb? Do I tell them how the things I thought I’d pray about ended up being put to the side for other things that God wanted to work on in my heart?

When Christine asked me to consider being in the play, I was really hesitant… but she’s persistent and enthusiastic and basically impossible to say no to (and thank the Lord for that!). I said yes and put on a brave face, but I had a ton of reservations about it – I almost backed out a couple of times before we started practicing. When I started reading through the script, I still wasn’t convinced I could do a good job. I’m a youth minister and musician, so you’d think that I’m used to having all eyes on me and having people rely on me… but acting is something very different, and it stretched me far outside of my comfort zone. Plus, it was hard for me to connect to my character of Teresa. She’s so deeply in love with her new fiancé Andrew, she quickly gets caught up in sentiment and reminiscences, and she makes jokes about things like high heeled shoes! None of these were things I could relate to, and I quickly found myself wishing I either had similar experiences in the past to pull from or that my introverted self would ease up so that I could let myself go and have fun with it. Acting was a struggle, and I wasn’t sure what to make of the fact that we had* to perform twice during the trip that I had originally signed up for with the intention of NOT having any commitments to worry about during it.

*Christine would often say “we get to perform twice!” with excitement; I would often repeat it in my head as “twice… yikes.”

Once we got to Poland and our World Youth Day adventures started, it was easier to let myself experience the pilgrimage and not be consumed with concern for the play. Plus, there were a ton of quick opportunities to pray throughout the days – every time we stepped into a church (which was quite often!), I could let the world fall away for a few minutes, breathe, and refocus myself on Christ. But when we’d talk about practicing late at night or look at our Thursday and Friday schedules, my nerves would kick in again.

Finally, the performance days were upon us. We got to do a final run-through on Thursday morning, and Act 1 (where Teresa and Andrew are engaged) went smoother than I expected. And once we got all the way through Act 3 (where Christopher, their son, is getting married to Monica), I was feeling better about the whole thing. At least I had a general sense of where to stand! Thursday night’s performance came, and at the end of it, I was relieved and happy… but honestly, I walked away from that performance knowing I could do better. So when we got to Friday, my prayer throughout our morning World Youth Day catechesis sessions was that God would give me the grace and courage to be His instrument so that I could convey His Love through the performance. I needed His help to allow myself to become one with my character Teresa rather than focusing on the ways that I am different from her and getting frustrated with those differences. And that Friday performance was awesome! I know for a fact that Adam (who played Andrew, my fiancé/husband) and I both had a lot of fun on the stage that night, and I wasn’t worried anymore about exactly where to stand or how to deliver my lines – I simply lived it, and it was glorious. I was Teresa!

After the Friday performance, we went to the Stations of the Cross event with Pope Francis and 800,000 fellow pilgrims. I tried to connect to the reflections that were shared, but I was distracted by other thoughts. I mean, why was it so hard for me to let myself go during the play and have fun with it? As I prayed, my thoughts led me back to feelings I experienced a couple of months back while talking about an upcoming wedding within my family. Now, it’s well-known in my family that I don’t really date, and I’ve never had a boyfriend. I’m not against dating by any means, it just hasn’t been the right situation for me yet. As my family talked about this particular wedding, the question of plus ones was brought up, as a number of the siblings and friends coming to the wedding are not yet married, including me. Since the wedding was still 6 months out at the time, I light-heartedly asked “well, what if I’m dating someone when the wedding comes around,” which quickly received the response of “you’ve never dated, and you’re probably going to be a nun anyway and never have a significant other, so why would we give you a plus one to our wedding and waste money on an extra seat that won’t get used.” ....

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