All posts by Danielle

Finding Fulfillment

Daniel Jasek, Senior Anchor Intern

What am I here for? What really matters? Who should I strive to be?

These are existential thoughts that have been around for millennia. Ultimately, I think they boil down to one question – What will make me happy? Or, put a different way, how can I find fulfillment? This question is one I have asked myself often, and over the past few years, I believe God has guided me closer to the answer.

As I went through my freshman year at Notre Dame, I knew I needed to pick something to do over the upcoming summer. I decided to give the Summer Service Learning Program a shot, and was placed at The Mission of Our Lady of the Angels site. “The Mission” is a Catholic apostolate on the West Side of Chicago run by the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago. Going into that summer, I was very unaware of the Grace I would experience (In a very literal sense – Grace is the name of the Mission’s German Shepherd). In all seriousness, that summer turned out to be the greatest one of my life, an extremely profound experience of God’s love and grace. I could write you a whole semester’s worth of blogs about it, but I’ll try to stick to this one.

Summer 2015 – The sisters and the summer volunteers

During the summer, I became a part of the Mission’s work to serve the neighborhood around them, a neighborhood scarred by poverty and violence. I helped with their food pantry, food and clothing giveaways, block parties, and whatever cleaning, donation-sorting, or yard work needed to be done. My main role for most of the summer was working as a summer camp counselor at the nearby YMCA that the Mission works closely with.

Doing all of this kept me very busy, and usually the days were so full of work, prayer, and community events that there was not much time that I could spend however I pleased. Initially, this frustrated me. However, I eventually noticed that on days when I thought more about myself, I was more stressed, anxious, and just generally miserable. But on days that I fully gave myself over to things outside of me, I found more fulfillment and happiness. Of course, I could have just learned this the easy way by listening when Jesus told me “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Luke 6:38). I think that an experiential understanding of this Christian paradox is one of the keys to a fulfilled life. Not having as much free time was a gift in itself, a chance to realize what really mattered and strip out what didn’t.

I also found great fulfillment and joy in simple Christian community at the Mission. We truly cannot live the Christian life alone, and my summer volunteer group was able to experience community life with the sisters in a beautiful way. We shared in daily Mass, the day’s work, Holy Hours, and meals with them. For the Franciscans there, meals are an intentional way of forming and expressing community. It was not uncommon for the process of gathering for dinner, eating, and cleaning up to take two hours. Interacting with the sisters was also an absolute privilege. They are some of the most faithful and inspiring people I have ever met, and they have many talents. Sr. Alicia is a former winner of the show “Chopped”, and Sr. Stephanie is a marathon runner who has approached Olympic-qualifying times. But even more amazing are their qualities of faithfulness, selflessness, and ability to make you feel welcomed and at home, wherever you encounter them. The love, support, and example of all the sisters and everyone else at the Mission was so helpful for me, especially after long days. We are truly the Body of Christ, and “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you’” (1 Corinthians 12:21). If we are looking for fulfillment, we cannot forget C.S. Lewis’ words: “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses” (The Weight of Glory).

Fast forward 2+ years. This semester, my friend and former site-partner Will Niermeyer organized an informal fall break trip to the Mission, and I wholeheartedly joined in. It was an amazing blessing to be able to spend another week in service, community, and prayer, this time with several more good friends. That week, there was nowhere else I wished to be. I felt perfectly filled.

Fall break 2017 – Franciscans and friends (and Grace)

God has definitely been at work in my life over these past few years, from when I went to the Mission the first time to when I returned just a few weeks ago. Even still, during this time I have also struggled with fulfillment, wondering how I could “get back” what I felt like I had at the Mission because everyday life didn’t always seem to live up. I then read these beautiful words from Caryll Houselander’s Reed of God:

“Sometimes it may seem to us that there is no purpose in our lives, that going day after day for years to this office or that school or factory is nothing else but waste and weariness. But it may be that God has sent us there because but for us Christ would not be there. If our being there means Christ is there, that alone makes it worthwhile.”

Even though I cannot always be on a service trip or at the Mission, I can always be an open vessel to God, letting myself be “filled with Christ”, and then bring Him wherever I go. This gives me a sense of great hope. I will always be fulfilled when I let God fill me with what He wants. When our will and God’s Will align, we will never want for anything other than what comes from Him, and we will be truly happy. After all, this is what we were created for.

Being Mindful of God

Melissa Gutierrez Lopez, Senior Anchor Intern

“Highs? Lows? Where have I seen God?”

This is a little exercise that my Compass group did my freshman year, way back in 2014. Each week, we would start our meetings by sharing some highlights and lowlights about that week and by answering the question “Where have I seen God?” This was my favorite part.

Now a Senior, I remember this exercise because it left an impact on my spiritual life. When I first heard it, I saw it as a challenge to look for God in every encounter and every moment, especially since I wanted to have something to share at the beginning of each Compass meeting. I thought it was nice, because I was constantly reminded that God is with me and found comfort that His presence can be made known, even in unexpected ways. What was great about this retrospective question was that for me, it was a practice that involved appreciating God’s will and presence in every moment of my life. It became a habit to find God at times and places that people wouldn’t normally think of, as in not just at the Grotto, in a chapel, or at Mass. I found myself recognizing God in my walks to class through God Quad, in the laughter that I shared with my friends, and in the multiple instances of admiring nature. It was in these small moments that I was able to turn to God, become attentive to Him, and give Him thanks for the many blessings in my life. He felt more real and I felt my spirituality and faith growing.         

Now, it has been about three years since I was in that Compass group, and every now and then, I’d have little moments that remind me of that challenge I once had. I now feel like I have lost the habit of being mindful of God. I say grace before my meals, I give thanks at Mass, and I pray. But, I feel like I am no longer as attentive as I used to be. Somewhere along the way I’ve forgotten this habit and find myself needing to focus on getting through my responsibilities, especially when I’m having difficult days.

The Grotto is a special place of prayer for many students.

However, God surprises me by making His presence known, even when I’m not being attentive. One example is a day that I wasn’t feeling myself and I decided to go out for a walk. I didn’t expect to run into anyone or have anything in particular happen. I just ventured out to roam around and clear my head of the lonely sensation that I was beginning to feel. I decided to make my way to the Grotto and randomly met a friend whom I hadn’t talked to in a while. It was nice running into her and having the opportunity to chat for a bit, especially because of how I was feeling. After we parted ways, I thought about this accidental encounter. It felt like a purposeful encounter of God’s love, for it was an unexpected moment where I was reminded that I am not alone. I felt God near even in the midst of loneliness.

The reality is that God is always present, regardless of whether or not I am attentive to Him. Even if I am not aware, He is there, ready to receive my attention when I turn towards Him even if it is just for a single moment in my day. Realizing this, I hope that can be more mindful of God, become closer to Him, and grow in my faith.

Why Am I Catholic?

Julia Erdlen, Senior Anchor Intern

“Why am I Catholic?” When I asked myself this, I was not asking myself if I believe in God.  That was not a particularly interesting question for me, not something I really ever doubted.  If almost eighteen years of Catholic education has managed to teach me anything, it is that I believe in God.  But I’ve doubted if I had chosen the right belief in God, chosen a creed that I really believed in.  

Part of this stemmed from the Catholicism I had seen in my hometown and my extended family.  Everyone there seemed to practice their faith in the same way.  The shared faith led to a homogeneous worldview and way of being that wasn’t anything like how I saw the world.  My observations of how one must be as a Catholic did not mesh with how I wanted to be and how I wanted to exist in the world.

I did not want to question anything, so I choose a university that would make it as easy as possible to continue practicing the Catholic faith.  Here at Notre Dame, my barrier to making it to Mass was two flights of stairs, and my peers are overwhelmingly Catholic in name.  But when I got here, I found something I didn’t know I was looking for.  I met people of different faiths, and had the opportunity to learn more about Protestants that just my theology class lessons on the Reformation and visit a mosque for the Muslim Student Association’s open house.  I met good people trying to serve God as best they could, even if their faith was not Catholicism.  

Julia’s First Holy Communion

So why was I even a Catholic? I had grown up submersed in tradition, with fourteen years of Catholic education with daily theology classes, but could not honestly say why I, personally, thought Catholicism was the best path to the Truth.  I knew it academically, inside and out, and I knew where I still didn’t agree.  That was all I could see.

But then I met so many more Catholics my age, far beyond the 200 kids in my high school graduating class, or the sixty I spent ten years with in elementary school.  You could be a young person of faith, and I saw enough like me that I felt a little less alone.  I saw people signing up to do service for their summer or their lives. I saw professors who taught that same faith differently than I had ever seen.  I saw priests and sisters who knew college students well, who crafted homilies and reflections to more accurately guide us all towards a personal relationship with God.  I saw many different worldviews and ways of being all informed by the Catholic faith.  I saw that I had a way forward to have my sincere beliefs, about God and how the world could be, but I didn’t yet have the chance to prove to myself that I truly cared.

I am forever thankful that my Methodist friend decided to tutor theology students during our sophomore year. She had almost the same academic knowledge of faith that I did, at least as far as Foundations of Theology was concerned, but she was learning more and more through tutoring.  Every so often, I would get a sincere, curious question:

“Do Catholics really believe that?”

It often had to do with Marian doctrine, to which I would usually grab the Miraculous Medal around my neck and say “Of course!”  But even this defense of the Mother of God did not convince me that I was deeply and personally invested in my creed.

But then we ended up at the Eucharist. Source and summit of all human life, high point of the mass, the greatest sacrament we have ever been given because our salvation has been won through it.  Which, of course, is the real presence of Christ.  A sacrifice renewed, every Sunday, not just remembered but transubstantiated into something more than a symbol.

I found myself saying:

“It’s just, like, the coolest thing ever. ”

It was a pretty informal confession of faith, nothing I hadn’t repeated before, in far more polished phrases almost every Sunday since I was a kid.  But I had decided it meant something to me. My friend was honest, explaining what she believed and how she worshipped, and we had the mutual experience of “I love learning about your faith, but it’s just not for me.”

Julia’s Confirmation

From then on, I knew for sure that my faith mattered to me.  I had a reason I was a Catholic, and even if I felt quite different from some Catholics, there were others that were more like me, and we all shared that universal, lowercase c catholic faith.  

I was also wrong about at least one thing.  I was not the only one like me back home, I had just been too young and isolated to notice that people had more in common with me than I thought.  

I sat down for lunch with my aunt, a Sister of Saint Joseph, a few weeks later, just like I had a few times a year for my entire life.  For the first time, we had a very real conversation about my faith and how I saw the world.  I told her that I had proved to myself that I believed, for real, in Catholicism specifically. It turns out, at least one person, a model Catholic in my mind, thought a bit like me. My godmother, someone who was called to serve the Church in a special way, was there to tell me I would be okay.  That I wasn’t alone in how I wanted to be Catholic, and in how I was going to sincerely live out a life of faith. And since then, I have only met more and more people who practiced and lived out their faith in a variety of ways.

Mass Beyond the Wall

Flora Tang, Senior Anchor Intern

To get to Sunday Mass in the holy city of Jerusalem, where I studied abroad last spring, is a walk not for the fainthearted. I walked down a rocky hill, through a gate, on a dusty road, past a few dozen heavily-armed Israeli soldiers, through a military checkpoint that cuts through a 25-foot tall concrete wall, enter the city of Bethlehem, walk along said 25-foot tall cement walls for 20 minutes, and then down the sometimes-nonexistent sidewalk of a busy main street for another 40 minutes before reaching the Church of the Nativity where Arabic-speaking Palestinian Catholics gather for Mass. Yep, just a slightly longer walk than the whooping four flights of stairs I must take from my dorm room to Mass in the chapel of Breen Phillips Hall.

The Separation Wall between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Credit: Shannon Hendricks

Living beside a Separation Wall and crossing it on the way to Mass is disheartening, to say the least. Even the Church of the Nativity itself bears the marks of bullet holes and repaired statues once shattered by bombs. The Separation Wall and all the everyday division, violence, and injustice in Israel-Palestine became a living reminder of the age-old problem of evil, of violence in the world, and of injustices committed in the name of religion. The walk to Mass every Sunday seems to shatter the very hope and certainty that my faith has always given me. What helps is that at the end of this long walk, at least there is Mass, where I can find just enough peace in the Eucharist. What doesn’t help, however, is that the Mass is entirely in Arabic, a language in which I could barely carry a conversation beyond “how are you,” let alone understand a single word of the readings or homily.

“But there are two words that I do understand at Arabic Mass!” I would sometimes joke. And those would be the only times when I can (finally!) participate with full heart and voice.

Salaam. “Peace.” A common greeting used by Arabic speakers of all faiths, a word I learned before even learning the Arabic word for “hello.” When I hear the priest repeat the word salaam for the third time in a sentence shortly after the Eucharistic Prayer, I would know that it’s my cue to turn to my neighbors and offer my “salaam” to them.

And, unsurprisingly, “Amen,” a word pronounced more or less the same in most languages. Well, technically, there’s only one “amen” that I know when to say. Whereas the rest of the “amen’s” during Mass erupt at completely unexpected times since I don’t understand any of the priest’s words preceding them, I would- almost out of habit- utter Amen before the Priest places the Eucharist in my palms in the communion line.

Soon enough, I came to realize that even as I do not understand the readings, the homily, or the rest of Mass, these two words alone perhaps have the power to illuminate the essence of my faith in a land -and in a world- marked by violence and injustice. Perhaps God does speak to my infuriated and hopeless self, even in a language I do not understand.

Peace. God’s call.

Just as we are called to offer one another the sign of peace during Mass, we are called to bring forth peace in the lives of others and in the world. As Jesus Himself said, “blessed are the peacemakers.” The violence and injustice I see in Israel-Palestine or in our own home communities are not reasons to be hopeless, but reasons to more actively live out Christ’s call to us to be peacemakers amidst this violence and amidst all forms of structural violence.

Flora and her study abroad group in the divided city of Hebron, Palestine.

Yet this peace that we are called to bring is not a pretense of peace that can be easily achieved by hiding away from violence in our own comfort zones. Nor is it through constructing massive walls that feign peace by dividing and silencing the other. “Peace is not the silent result of violent repression,” Blessed Oscar Romero writes. Christ’s peace, which differs from human peace, is a peace built on the foundations of justice, mercy, and love. And we, as Christians, are called to be agents of this peace.

Amen. Our response.

Uttering “amen” before the Body of Christ is not a simple word, but a weighty, radical response to God’s radical love for us. When we say amen, we make the radical choice to recognizing Christ’s own body, broken for us out of His radical love, under the appearance of a little white host before our eyes. The same “amen” also calls us to recommit ourselves to living out a Christ-like radical love by recognizing and healing the many broken “bodies of Christ” under the appearance of those in the world who are most afflicted, like Christ Himself on the Cross, by violence, rejection, pain, and brokenness. To say “amen” and kneel before the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, and then to go out into the world and ignore the many broken and rejected “Christ’s” among us is the opposite of what the very same Christ demands of us.

Up to this day, I still do not understand why God allows for violence, for humans to divide one another and to commit injustice against one another, or why violence is often committed in the name of religion itself. I still do not understand why a 25-feet tall wall stands between Bethlehem, the place of Jesus’ birth, and Jerusalem, the place of His resurrection. But just like the only two words I do understand amidst all the incomprehension at Arabic Mass, the only thing of which I am certain is Jesus’ eternal demand for us in this broken world to be peacemakers through living out justice and mercy, and to radically love the most wounded “bodies of Christ” as a response to His Eucharistic love for us– whether on campus, in our home communities, or in other corners of the world.

The Importance of an Invitation

Joe Tenaglia, Senior Anchor Intern

“Hey man, how you doing? You going to mass tonight?”

The text flashed across my phone. It was my friend Ryan. I waited a few minutes before responding.

“I’m alright. Kinda tired. Think I’m just gonna stay in.”

A minute later another text came through.

“You should come to mass.”

I sighed. I knew he was right. It wasn’t like I had any homework to do or anything. It was just that my couch was so comfortable and the blanket that I was wrapped up in was so warm.

I had said I was tired, and I guess that was kind of true. I hadn’t really gotten enough sleep the night before, but then again that was nothing new. The main reason I wanted to stay in was because I wanted to watch some TV or play video games.

Digging deeper, I think the reason why I wanted to stay in instead of going to mass was because I was in a bit of spiritual dry spell. I figured it was easier to just avoid going to mass or thinking about my faith life than having to deal with it. Ryan knew this too, and that’s why he was taking the extra step to invite me to daily mass that night.

The key word in that last sentence is invite.

Often, we think of invitations as being for large events. As a child, you might receive an invitation for a birthday party.  As an adult, they probably come for things such as weddings. They usually have some fanciful design that announces the importance of the event and they include some RSVP information. While certainly these invitations are important, there are smaller invitations that occur daily, and which form the foundation of community, especially communities of faith.

An invitation to a birthday party or a wedding is as much if not more about the person sending the invite than the one receiving it. The invitation signals an important event that the inviter wants someone to know about. In addition it includes RSVP information so that the sender of the invitation can know exactly who and how many will be attending.

There is another type of invitation to which we are called though. This is the invitation modeled by Jesus on the cross. With his arms outstretched, Jesus invites us into relationship with the God of love who is our creator. It is a selfless invitation, focused on what the recipient can get out of it instead of the sender. There is no expectation of an RSVP, only a hope that we will reach out and accept this invitation for our own benefit.

Each of us is called to embrace this model of invitation, which asks for nothing in return. This is how we build up the Body of Christ. For while faith is inherently personal, it is also rooted in community. Communities of faith gather to pray and worship together, to rejoice with one another in times of consolation and to support one another in times of desolation. But if you feel lonely, or you if feel like you don’t know how to pray, or that you are less holy than others, it can be difficult to find the courage to take the step to join a community of faith. How then, are you expected to ever find a community? The answer is in invitation.

“Yeah, you’re right. I’ll be there.”

After a few minutes of indecision, I finally texted Ryan back. He was right that I should go to mass and I had realized it. I got up off my couch and got ready.

Students pray together during a Residence Hall Mass

In this interaction, Ryan embraced the kind of invitation that we are all called to. It was a selfless invitation. On the surface, he got nothing out of the exchange. My response to his invitation wouldn’t have changed his own plans of attending mass. But, by the extending of this invitation and my subsequent acceptance, a community was strengthened.

If I tried to count the number of times over the past three years that I have received invitations – to mass, to go to the Grotto, to night prayer – I wouldn’t be able to come up with a number. I’ve simply lost count.

Many times, when I have received these invitations I was teetering on the edge of going to something and the invitation made all the difference. Other times, I have received the invitation and turned it down or otherwise ignored it. Even in these instances, the community was still strengthened. I might not have been ready at that moment to accept an invitation, but I had more confidence to accept the next time I was asked.

Invitation is an integral part of my faith experience, as I suggest it probably is for many of you reading this. Whether it is an offer to join someone for mass, an encouragement to sign up for a retreat, or an offer to walk to the Grotto, an invitation can make a big difference.

So, at the end of this post, I want to invite each and every one of you to think of the people who have invited you into faith over the years. Not only that, but I also invite you to do likewise and to extend an invitation to someone else. There are so many people – around this campus, throughout this country, and throughout the whole world – who are searching for something more. They might be just an invitation away from finding it. Of course there is always the possibility they turn it down but imagine the joy you’ll both feel if they accept.

As I put on my shoes and a jacket to head out to mass, another text came in.

“Good. I’ll see you there.”

The Struggle with Uncertainties

Regina Ekaputri, Senior Anchor Intern

When I do my Notre Dame introduction nowadays, it starts with “Hi, my name is Regina, and I’m a senior…” and before I continue describing which dorm, which major, and so on, I tend to have this tugging feeling. I’m a senior. One sentence filled with so many different feelings, and it often raises so many questions from both myself and the people I encounter. “What are you thinking about doing after Notre Dame?” After hearing that I’m from Indonesia, another question would follow, “Where do you see yourself after Notre Dame?”

To be honest, I don’t know. I, too, ask these same questions to myself. What am I doing after? Where am I going to be? I don’t know. I don’t know.

I think this struggle and anxiety about not knowing things is not just common among seniors, but also juniors, sophomores, and freshmen. I remember that when I was a freshman, I experienced some doubts on what I was going to major in, how I could fit in, and many other things. Going into sophomore year, I thought I was in a slightly better place where I knew what I was doing, after surviving freshman year and comfortably adjusting to Notre Dame life. But then it came to the point where I realized that—again—I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my college education. I changed my intended major and minors so many times, my parents and my friends from home couldn’t keep track. I was fine, though, cruising along and taking it one step at a time. Junior year then came, when I spent a semester abroad in the beautiful town of St. Andrews. My experience abroad was amazing, and I could talk for hours about my time in Scotland. However, another wave of anxiety came, as I was looking for a summer internship. It didn’t help that I knew some people who already knew what they were doing since the beginning of fall semester of junior year. The questions started rolling in: What do you want to do after graduation? What kind of internships do you want to do? It was a lot of worrying and stressing out, while also frantically applying for twenty different internships.

Regina pictured in Scotland during her semester abroad

Then, I’m a senior. To quote some of my friends, “things are starting to get real.” That fear of uncertainties is coming back, but this time I feel that it’s so much more overwhelming. It doesn’t help that all of us here at Notre Dame are high-achieving and hardworking students and that most of us know that handful of people who already know what they want to do next. It’s hard to not compare ourselves with our peers, or not think about this “expectation” that we’re supposed to know what we’re going to do after graduation. I know, though, that I’m not the only one who’s feeling this way. I know that I should stop comparing myself with others.

How do I deal with this fear? Some days are much harder, much more frustrating. I would lie on my bed and think about this uncertainty, and I would lose an hour or two of what would’ve been a good night sleep. However, some days are slightly easier. I remind myself that even though I don’t know about my future, God does. I know that He has a great plan for each one of us, that He knows us so well from when we were in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139). But even then, sometimes I still struggle with this. So God has a unique plan and calling for each one of us. But how do I know what it is? Sometimes I wish that I, too, would have some kind of divine revelation or miraculous vision like that of St. Paul or St. Francis, where God verbally communicates with them what they’re supposed to do. I would pray that God reveals what He wants me to do, so I could follow and do His will. But nope, I haven’t had any of those exciting and dramatic moments thus far in my life.

Recently, however, I was reminded that maybe the way I pray, by demanding to know God’s will, wasn’t the best. I was led to pray in a slightly different way—instead of demanding to God to tell me what He wants, I have been learning to pray that I am more open to God’s calling, that I am more aware to the little things I do, that I surrender my control, to let go, and let God lead my life and walk with me as I try to discover what it is I am called to do. I ask for the patience, the strength, the peace, and the joy to live every day in a way I could learn more about myself and be present with the people around me.

I also keep going back to this prayer by St Thomas Merton, that has also helped to give me some peace:

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Even with this prayer as my go-to shield and armor in times of stress and anxiety, some days are still harder than others. But when the anxiety hits hard, I try to take a short break and just take a deep breath—to remember that hey, I am not alone in this. I may not know where I’m going, or what I’m going to do after graduation, but I want to trust that God will lead me by the right road, that He’ll always walk with me, and that He will make everything beautiful in His time.

The Answer to Our Identity Crisis

Rosemary Agwuncha, Senior Anchor Intern

I’m currently taking a class titled: “The Meaning of Life”. A slightly overwhelming question to address for a 50 minute class that meets twice a week. No one ever has come up with a definitive answer, and I’m not sure if anyone ever will. Our life’s purpose will never seem perfectly straightforward. But I’ve been told an answer that comes pretty close: “To love and be loved is what we were created for.”

That’s a beautiful, poetic idea of how life is supposed to work. There’s one small issue though: People are so hard to love. Myself included.

No joke, my sister called me around 12:30 a.m. a couple of days ago. Fortunately, I was still awake doing homework, but I hesitantly answered the phone because I didn’t want to be interrupted. I eventually picked up and said, “What do you want?” She replies, “Dang, chill. I just wanted to see how your exam went.” Ouch. That gave me some serious guilt. Looking back on that, I realize how easy it is to take our loved ones for granted.

As relationships with friends and family evolve over time, I am growing more and more aware of how difficult it is to love others. But at the same time, I am also being reminded of the sacredness that lies within every single one of us because we are the Beloved of a merciful God.

The joyful community, Voices of Faith, where Rosemary feels deeply loved.

The next day, I ran into a friend that I hadn’t seen in weeks. She asked how I was doing. I said, “I’m good. Just been busy and kinda tired, but doing fine”. She responded, “That’s nothing new though. I’ve never known you to not be tired. Tell me something new”. I was shook… to the core.

My constant busyness and the resulting tiredness had become inseparable from my identity. Things had really gotten that bad over these past couple of years and I didn’t even realize how serious of an issue it was. Friends have told me time and time again to slow down and live life, but I admitted to them that I find it hard to be still because I always want to be actively doing something. These are real life issues in the life of a Notre Dame student. My constant fatigue, feelings of overwhelm, and restlessness come from not living out the truth of my identity: One who is Beloved. One who is doused in mercy.  

We often fall into the trap of believing that our worth comes from how much we can accomplish in a day, the score we get on an exam, the prestige of our job title, and the list goes on. But… none of that matters to God. It’s not that He doesn’t care, but God is just delighted in YOU as you are.

Wouldn’t it be an incredible and transformative thing if we were able to constantly live out of our true identity: Beloved and Forgiven? If in every moment, the way we regard others and ourselves was rooted in the love and the mercy of God that surrounds us? It’s like the air we breathe though, it constantly surrounds us so we often become desensitized to it and forget it’s there.

St. Paul knows we need this reminder, so he tells us in his letter to the Colossians that “as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col. 3:12).

Recognizing our Belovedness gives us a more correct way of seeing others and seeing ourselves. It would change so many of our actions to be more merciful and compassionate to ourselves and to others. We could then be much more authentic to who we were created to be and help others to do the same.

As we consider how we relate to others and to ourselves, I think this incredible quote from C.S. Lewis’ book, The Weight of Glory, can be helpful in giving us the perspective to understand how significant our every interaction with each person truly is.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption… (like) in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations… There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”- C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

How much we recognize our Belovedness as well as share mercy and compassion with others is the true foundation of our spirituality. Recognizing Christ to be present in ourselves and in the other, leads us to respond in only one appropriate way: with love and joy. Acknowledging the glimpse of God standing before us when we look in the mirror or when we encounter another: this is the basis of our life as Christians. “Beloved, we are God’s children now…” so let’s collectively live into this truth (1 Jn 3:2).

 

Communion of the Heart

Elizabeth Hascher, Senior Anchor Intern

Just as quickly as my summer began, it was over. Even though I hadn’t been on campus for eight months, it felt like it was just last week that I was loading up my car with storage tubs and driving away, golden dome in my rearview mirror. At first, the thought of coming back was terrifying. I left campus last fall feeling very much ready to leave. It was a semester with a lot of difficult moments, and it left me questioning if Notre Dame was the place for me.

That trying semester did come with some unexpected blessings, however. One thing led to another during the fall, and I was presented with the opportunity to spend my summer participating in an SSLP with the L’Arche community in Spokane, Washington. There are 137 L’Arche communities throughout the world, and each of them provides a home and community where people with and without intellectual disabilities share their lives with one another. They live and work together, form friendships and relationships of faith, and seek to strengthen and provide growth opportunities for their communities.

That all sounds great, but what L’Arche really looks like is living in a house with ten other people and just embracing life with one another. L’Arche is about drinking coffee with your friends in the morning and sitting on the porch for hours. It’s about dancing in the kitchen and praying together after dinner. It’s also about talking with one another and sharing feelings of sadness or frustration, or giving someone a hug after a difficult day. Sometimes it’s even about laughing really hard when someone farts unexpectedly during breakfast.

L’Arche celebrates the Fourth of July together with a picnic.

As I left my L’Arche family and came back to school, I carried this experience with me. Knowing that a lot had changed during my time away from campus, I thought about my time in Spokane and wondered how I would be able to take what I learned and share it with others. How would I be able to explain to people at Notre Dame what a radically different lifestyle L’Arche was, and how it taught me more than perhaps any class? Well, here it is.

Living with people with intellectual disabilities showed me that the way we spend our time says volumes about the values we hold. If we truly let our lives speak, we can learn a lot about ourselves. We may be surprised to find that we may not be honoring our values and beliefs quite the way we perceive ourselves to be. It should give each of us pause to think about times when we have valued worldly things, validation from others, and power over vulnerability, humility, and sharing our lives with each other. My time at L’Arche showed me that if I truly desire to let God work in my life, I must intentionally create spaces in which He can dwell.

Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, writes in his book Becoming Human, “Weakness, recognized, accepted, and offered, is at the heart of belonging, so it is at the heart of communion with another.” If we are to invite God in, we must choose to make time for the moments of joy in our lives, but also for those times of pain and sorrow. We must be more open about offering this up with the people around us. It is in such moments, when we give each other even the tiniest of glimpses into what is on our hearts, that we come into communion with one another.

Through this communion of the heart, God enters our lives. God dwells in the spaces of brokenness and weakness, and he is present in times of joy and celebration as well. He is there when we share snacks and tell jokes with our friends, and when we tell someone how tough our day really was. He’s there when we dance in the car and when we need someone to help us get out of bed in the morning. When we share life with one another and become vulnerable in this way, we make room for God.

Elizabeth and Tina go out for community night at a minor league baseball game

God seeks a personal relationship with each of us, and it is up to us to invite Him in through encounters of the heart. This means different things for everyone. Perhaps it is as simple as putting down your to-do list and taking a walk with a friend. Maybe it means sitting at dinner to talk for half an hour longer instead of catching up on your favorite TV show. It could even be simply being physically present to the person next to you. We can’t pretend to know everything that is on another person’s heart, but we can certainly make more of an effort to share what is on ours and be open to receiving that from others.

As tempting as it may be to say that everything is fine or pretend that life under the dome is all sunshine and tailgates, we are closing off our hearts to communion with each other and God when we do so. Jean Vanier also writes, “To speak of the heart is not to speak of vaguely defined emotions but to speak of the very core of our being.” If we are to cultivate our minds and our hearts here at Notre Dame, we need to be more intentional about opening our hearts to one another. It is then that we will begin to recognize God’s kingdom on Earth.

 

A Letter of Humility

Nathan Miller, Senior Anchor Intern

Humility is not thinking less about yourself, it’s thinking about yourself less.

The amount of time I spend thinking about myself every day is frankly astonishing. When will I wake up in the morning? Have I studied enough to pass my Accounting test later today? Should I go for a run this afternoon so I keep myself looking good? I wonder if the new people I met today think I was funny? …You get my point I’m sure. It is in light of this self-centeredness that Jesus speaks in Matthew 16 –

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?

This is where humility enters. As a virtue, humility is meant to be our aide, God’s free gift to us, to overcome the tendency of pride. Seeing as, however, it would be against the spirit of humility to stand up (digitally speaking) and tell you why you should be more humble, I simply wish to offer you this open letter to myself. In my own reflection over the past few years, I’ve been drawn to this prayer called the Litany of Humility. It is a challenging prayer – I’ve learned that when we pray for humility, God gives us opportunities to practice it! Still, it has been a blessing in my life and I hope my own struggles with it can be of some benefit for you.

——

Dear Nathan,

Now that you’re reading this letter, it means you’ve made it to graduation! As I write this now it is hard to imagine, but I’m sure senior year flew by for you. I hope you look back on this final year at Our Lady’s university and feel you have been a good steward of the blessed education you’ve been offered. It took so many people to get you to this point – I know you couldn’t have done it on your own! That’s why I hope, above all, you kept your promise to pray the Litany of Humility each day. Such a simple prayer, yet possibly even a greater challenge than graduating. There are 3 lines in particular that stick out. I hope they’ve stayed at the front of your mind amidst all the excitement of this year.

From the desire of being loved: Deliver me, O Jesus.

I remember the first time you heard that line and the initial shock that accompanied it. It’s the first one in the Litany and it gave you worries. “If God is love, isn’t it good for me to seek love?” Thankfully faith isn’t a solo ride and you had great role models who helped you wrestle with this. They helped you realize that love is inherently good, in fact, the greatest good (1 Cor 13:13), but like any good thing, it can be misused. Love is freely given and freely received. They helped you realize that the crux of this prayer is that you actually deserve love so much that when you reach for it, you sell yourself short. Trust in God’s timing.

I remember the times throughout college when you believed you needed everyone to “love” you. When you met new friends or even with your best friends, you judged every interaction by how much the other people laughed at your jokes, listened intently to your stories, and whether they wanted to hang out with you again. If people didn’t think you were the most interesting man in the world, you felt you did something wrong. Actually, it’s unfair for me to write that in past tense because even now I still struggle. That’s why I’m writing this to you Nathan – I hope you’ve learned to bring humility into every interaction you have. I hope you’ve accepted the grace of this first line in the Litany to realize you don’t need to be the center of attention. I hope you’ve learned to spend more time laughing with other people, more time listening to their stories, and freely given your time to all the inspiring people you’ve met here.

From the fear of being humiliated: Deliver me, O Jesus.

Excuses are an addicting thing. A brutally honest friend once told you that you’re always making an excuse when you mess up. If you’re not right, it’s because of this or that or something else. It’s never genuinely your mistake because that would be a sign of weakness – that you aren’t smart enough or athletic enough or convincing enough.

As much as you didn’t like to hear that at the time, I hope you’ve taken the lesson to heart. I hope you’ve learned to own up to your faults and stop worrying about how others might perceive a little failure. You are not defined by your successes or failures. I hope you accept every little embarrassing moment as a reminder that Jesus was humiliated too, and he endured it patiently out of love to win your heart.

That others may be preferred to me in everything: Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Sophomore year was difficult when you applied for numerous internships and didn’t hear anything back for months. You wondered if you had become less “valuable” because suddenly you weren’t being chosen for the opportunities you wanted.

But there’s been countless little moments too. You’ve been offended when people seemed more interested in what others had to say than you. You’ve felt hurt when you didn’t get the leadership position you felt you had worked the hardest for. You’ve felt threatened when someone was more entertaining than you.

In all this, I hope you’ve recognized the futility of desiring preference. You spent too much of your life trying to impress others to gain favor. Yes, it’s wonderful to be chosen and to feel special, but that only brings out a feeling for something that is already imprinted on your soul. God gave you incredible talents, wonderful friends, and a plan only you could fulfill. Why? So that you could serve others, just as He did. I hope you never forget His example. I hope that every day you spend less time thinking about your worries and more time thinking about His presence in the people around you.

I’m sure you’re still working on it, but I hope this year and this prayer have brought you peace!

In Christ,
~Nathan

Meet Your 2017-18 Anchor Interns!

Anchor Interns, 2017-18

Did you know Campus Ministry has 11 senior Anchor Interns who desire to serve the church within our campus and assist in all areas of Campus Ministry?  Over the course of the semester, each intern will be featured on this blog which is designed to encourage you, our students, to follow God’s call in your lives.

Rosemary Agwuncha: Rosemary is originally Nigerian but was born and raised in Austin, Texas. She is majoring in Pre-Health and Thelogy, with a minor in International Development Studies. She currently lives off campus but lived in Breen-Phillips Hall during her freshman year. Rosemary’s favorite group on campus is the Notre Dame Voices of Faith Gospel Choir, because she loves to sing and they have been like a family to her since freshman year. She will be working in African-American Ministry with Becky Ruvalcaba. 

Michael Anderson: Mike is a senior from Tinley Park, Illinois, studying biochemistry and theology. While he formerly lived in Keenan Hall, he is now enjoying living off campus. He spends most of his time outside of classes doing cancer immunotherapy research though he also enjoys running, playing sports (especially volleyball), and doing service with the Knights of Columbus. He is planning on entering a MD/PhD program after graduation where he hopes to bring his Catholic values into his medical practice and research. This year, he is working with Christian to plan retreats and pilgrimages.

Regina Ekaputri: Regina is a senior studying Psychology with minors in Art History and Italian Studies. She grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia, but calls Flaherty Hall her home here at Notre Dame. Regina is really passionate about education and hopes to be an educator in the future. She also enjoys making art, reading, cooking, spending time with friends, having good conversations, going to art museums, and traveling to new places. She will be working with Christian for the retreats and pilgrimages throughout the school year.

Julia Erdlen: Julia is an English major living in Ryan Hall.  She hails from Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia.  When she finds a spare minute, she reads fiction that wasn’t assigned for class and embroiders.  She also rings in the Handbell Choir.  Julia will be working in Liturgy with Allie Greene to assist with residence hall and other undergraduate liturgies.

Emily Greentree: Emily is a senior, with a double major in American studies and Statistics. She is a true Florida girl, hailing from the wonderful town of Jupiter Florida, but on campus she calls Ryan Hall her home. She is obsessed with all things Disney and can often be seen jamming out to music as she walks around campus. She loves spending time with her family and friends and enjoys getting to meet new people. This year she is working with Kayla August on the Compass Program.

Melissa Gutierrez Lopez: Melissa is a senior studying American Studies with a minor in Latino Studies. She is originally from Escondido, California and now calls Flaherty Hall her home under the dome. Melissa enjoys spending her spare time with her friends, but also likes to keep up with her favorite shows, journal, and spend time outdoors. This year, she is working with Becky Ruvalcaba in Latino Ministry.

Elizabeth Hascher: Elizabeth is a senior who is double majoring in political science and peace studies. A former resident of Lewis Hall, she now lives off-campus and is proud to call Grand Rapids, Michigan home. Elizabeth enjoys reading, spending time outdoors, baking, and drinking lots of coffee. She is also passionate about service and has been involved with the Center for Social Concerns throughout her time at Notre Dame. This year, Elizabeth will be working with Kayla August to develop new spirituality and outreach initiatives for campus ministry.

Danny Jasek: Danny is a senior living in Duncan Hall and studying Computer Science. He is also minoring in Theology and is passionate about the intersection of technology and faith. He is originally from Dayton, OH – home of the Wright Brothers and the professional sports team with the longest sellout streak in North America. Danny is the oldest of 5 children and enjoys spending time with his family and friends, running/playing just about any sport, spiritual reading, soundtrack music, and eating cereal at any and all times of the day. He is working with Fr. Matt Hovde and the Short Course Sacramental prep team this year.

Nathan Miller: Nathan is studying Accountancy and Theology here at Notre Dame. For the past three years he lived in Duncan Hall but for senior year is living off campus. He is originally am from Manitowoc, Wisconsin and is very passionate with his love for the Badger state! As an Anchor Senior Intern, Nathan will be working in a new area called Bible Study Ministry. His focus is to coordinate leaders, help establish community events and resources, and continually invite new students to explore a relationship with Jesus through opening the Scriptures. In his free time, he loves football, the outdoors, and listening to country music.

Flora Tang: Flora is a senior political science and theology major from Beijing, China (a whooping 15-hour-flight away from Notre Dame!), and for the past three years, has been living in the Best Place on campus– Breen-Phillips Hall. In the rare hours when she’s not engaged in political debates with friends, Flora enjoys to cook, read social justice-themed books, and dabble in painting and watercoloring. She’s looking forward to working with RCIA in Sacramental Preparation at Campus Ministry this year.

Joe Tenaglia: Joe is a senior studying Theology and American Studies. Hailing from South Weymouth, Massachusetts he now lives on campus in the great Stanford Hall. In his free time, Joe enjoys loudly and proudly supporting Boston sports teams, reading, listening to music, and above all spending time with family and friends. This year Joe will be working as part of the Retreats and Pilgrimages team, and is excited to work to provide engaging and enriching programming for his fellow students.

 

Anchor Interns, 2017-18