On the morning of September 21, over 90 Christendom College students joined philosophy professors Mike Brown and John Cuddeback on a three-mile hike to the summit of Hawksbill Mountain where Mass was celebrated by alumnus Fr. Joseph Mary Brown, CSJ, ’85. At an elevation of 4,051 feet in the Shenandoah National Park, students constructed a stone altar and a cross made of fallen wood, which were beautified with wildflowers that the students had gathered along the trail.
Over looking a stunning view of the Shenandoah Valley, sophomore Rosie McNeely led students in the rosary as Fr. Joseph Mary prepared the altar for the celebration of the Mass.
“After communion, there was a 20-minute period of silence,” sophomore Lindsay Harmon said. “It was amazing that so many people were able to keep quiet and offer thanksgiving together. It was a powerful moment.”
The celebration of the Mass was followed by lunch and a brief reflection presented by Cuddeback. In his reflection, he reminded the students that Our Lord is speaking to them through nature. All were reminded of God’s loving touch on every aspect of creation, and that one should not neglect to take an intentional moment each day to notice the beauty of the earth and listen to God speaking through the natural world.
“It was as if we were alone, on the mountain,” senior Bobby Crnkovich said. “Christ went up into the mountains when He wanted to pray, to be by Himself and to be closer to His Father. For us, it was almost a Biblical experience.”
For Lizzie Raabe, a sophomore, the experience paired nature with God in a new way.
“It was a different side of Christian worship, which made me think of what the Christians in times of persecution went through,” she said. “It hurt to kneel on the ground. It was also interesting to see how much the Mass had become a part of people’s lives. Since we didn’t have missals, we said the responses and sang the hymns from memory.”
The hike, Mass, and talk were a testament to the natural beauty that surrounds the college and the excellent mentors that make Christendom’s education and formation an unparalleled personal experience.
“After it was over, on the drive home, I was thinking about the day as a whole,” freshman Clare McDermott said. “It was like our own life. We are always climbing the mountain in real life, struggling against the world, and we have to think of the beauty that waits for us at the top—at the end of the trail.”