All posts by Danielle

Men and Women with Hope to Bring

Mike Urbaniak, Assistant Director of Leadership Formation

As I look out my Coleman-Morse window, out on to South Quad here at Notre Dame, the winter white has finally turned into budding green. The trudging and scurrying through snow and cold has given way to frisbees, Spike-ball, and soaking up the warmth of the sun. It is this transformation each year that signals the end of another academic year and the departure of another decorated class of graduates. In Campus Ministry, it means that we must say farewell to another year of Anchor Senior Interns, thankful for the incredible work they have done and excited for what they have to offer the world beyond zip code 46556.

Being the director of the Anchor Senior Internship in Campus Ministry, I have the unique privilege of walking alongside these eleven students on their yearlong journey as student and minister. I have seen their exaltation in the execution of a great event. I have heard the challenge of cancellations and misunderstandings in communication. I have sat with the tears of stress, anxiety, and grief. I have witnessed the breakthroughs in discipleship. I have celebrated the accomplishments of the present and the acceptance of future opportunities. It is bittersweet to see this time come to an end. Mostly, however, I’m simply proud. I’m proud to have been a part of shaping this year with them, doing what I could to help them grow, but mostly relying on the Holy Spirit to guide their formation into the likeness of Christ.

Part of journeying with these men and women is to share life with them. This is when they came over to our house and shared in our family dinner.

I imagine Jesus might have felt this somewhat as he sent his disciples out at the end of the Gospel of Matthew:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Jesus sends them out with purpose and pretty clear direction. I don’t believe he would do that if he wasn’t proud of them or believed that they couldn’t do the job. Those disciples were sent out to change the world. And, they aren’t sent out on their own, but Jesus reminds them that he is always with them.

I am proud to send out our interns because I too know that they can change the world. They are capable and skilled. They are gritty and resilient. They are compassionate and empathetic. Most importantly, they have Jesus with them, always. I have seen their growth in relationship with Him this year and that makes the “bittersweet”-ness of sending them out more sweet than bitter.

Anchor Interns, Class of 2018!

As I’ve stated before, these students are called our Anchor Senior Interns, and as I close out my reflection I’d like to make one last note for anyone reading this. Many of you will know that the anchor is an ancient sign of Christian hope. This is also seen in the cross and anchors present on campus, a symbol of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the founders of Notre Dame, whose motto is “Hail the Cross, our only hope”. If you ever have any doubt about the future of our world or our Church, I’d be happy to set you up to have coffee with one of these fine young men and women. They are my hope. By no means are they perfect (neither am I!). But, they are men and women who think deeply, pray fiercely, and care compassionately. They are doing their best to live lives integrated with the Gospel. They seek justice and mercy. They care about those who are most vulnerable and constantly ask how to serve them better. We are so fortunate to have them officially with us for a year, but even more fortunate that they are heading out beyond our campus into the world to glorify God with their lives as ministers, doctors, consultants, teachers, engineers, business people, and more. I give thanks to God for them especially this day and pray for God’s Spirit to continue to guide them, to make disciples of all nations.

 

Prayer: An Act of Thanksgiving

Meghan Kozal, 2018-2019 Anchor Intern

“Bless us, O Lord, and these, I guess…”

“Did you just say and these, I guess?”

“Of course, that’s what the prayer is, isn’t it?”

“No, it’s thy gifts!  Not I guess!”

The traditional Catholic prayer before meals can sometimes get a little lost on us in its ritual nature, as the Old English terminology had for my sister when she was younger.  My own prayer before meals can often be hurried in my busy day-to day-life and even at times apathetic, as if I were actually praying “and these, I guess”. Recently, though, I was given the opportunity to be drawn out of the ritual motions and words of the prayer at the dinner table in Rungsted Kyst, Denmark.  

This past semester I lived with a wonderful host family in the small coastal suburb of the capital, Copenhagen.  My family included several host siblings: 10 and 14 year old sisters (Amalie and Victoria), 17 year old brother (Gustav) and, arguably my favorite, the small dog (Luna).  One of my favorite parts of living with them was our hyggeligt nightly family dinner.  

Gustav, Victoria, Amalie, and Meghan after dinner

I was used to praying before meals, as I had always been taught to by my family, and it was something that I had continued to do at Notre Dame.  My host family, though Christian, were not particularly religious and did not pray before meals. Being a guest in their house, I did not want to seem overly religious and make them uncomfortable, so I snuck in my prayer before our dinners while no one was looking.  My secretive prayers continued for some time until my youngest host sister, Amalie, noticed and asked my host mom what I was doing, though she said it in Danish. My host mom asked me if I was in fact praying, laughing a bit at my shyness, and was surprised that so much time had passed with no one having noticed.  After my host family found out that I always prayed before meals they would pause in serving the food when they saw me begin to make the sign of the cross. It was occasionally rather uncomfortable, as they stared at me in a bit of wonder and waited to continue what they were doing until I was done. I was happy, though, that I no longer had to sneak in my prayer and it really made me stop and think about the prayer I was saying, as well as make sure I remembered to pray it.

Nearing my last week with my host family in December, after I finished praying, Gustav asked me why I prayed before meals.  I hadn’t realized what a mysterious thing prayer could be to someone who had never really experienced it in this way, as it had always been a part of my mealtime ritual.  I told him that it was an act of thanksgiving. It was a recognition that I am blessed to have the meal sitting before me as well as the family surrounding me. In praying I am showing gratitude for all those whose labor went into the food reaching my plate while also praying that those who were not as lucky as me would be fed.  Gustav’s response struck me in his immediate acceptance, as he said that he thought the whole family should begin to pray before meals along with me if that is what it meant.

I, like I think many Christians do, heard about missionaries converting people in foreign lands and had a longing to go out into the world and do these awesome deeds, but I hadn’t realized that in praying before meals in the tiny suburb of Copenhagen, Denmark, I truly was a missionary.  Although I did not directly preach the words of the Gospels or bring my host family to Mass with me, in modeling a way that faith had moved me to reconsider a part of my daily life, the meal, I believe that I was able to show how my faith is one of gratitude and thanksgiving.

I realize now, though, that I left out an important part in my description of my prayer- that I was also praying with the gratitude for the space to be able to show my faith and for having been raised in a family and community that taught me the very faith I was able to demonstrate. I regret not having been more upfront about my faith from the beginning to my host family, as I might have been able to have the conversation about prayer and more with my host brother long before the eve of my departure.

Nyhavn, Copenhagen

I don’t think that I will ever fully be able to see my mealtime prayer without this new lens of mission and purposeful gratitude, and I hope I continue to often find myself sitting at a dinner table with the choice to pray in secret or to profess my faith so that I do not forget the great blessing that is prayer.  

Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts which we continue to receive, from thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

The World’s Best Teachers

Joe Tenaglia, Senior Anchor Intern

“When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” – G.K. Chesterton

The last month of my senior year seems like the perfect moment to reflect on the people and experiences that have shaped my time on Our Lady’s campus. Especially in light of uncertainty about what comes next, it is comforting to look back on the moments of peace and joy that have marked my past four years.

In this process of reflection, I can’t help but return to the people who have shaped my experience the most by making it possible: the people who have helped me get here and have been with me through all of my ups and downs. Of course, I am talking about my parents.

Simply put, I would not be the person I am and I would not be at Notre Dame if it weren’t for my parents. From a purely rational standpoint, this is obvious. In the context of our modern society, which values individualism and seems to preach that we belong to no one but ourselves, it might just be a radical statement of gratitude and love. We know that our parents are the most important people in our lives, but how often do we actually acknowledge them as such? How often do we adopt a posture of gratitude to those who have sacrificed and suffered for us to flourish? I know that I don’t do it enough. So allow me please to use this space to do so.

My parents, Maura and Dan, are and always will be the most important people in my life. They not only gave life to me, but have also paved the path for me to not just exist, but to prosper. My parents, both being devout Catholics, made the all-important decision to bring me into the Church. They proudly walked into the church at my baptism to give me over to God; to declare that I do not belong to them, but to the one who is Father of all. This act of submission, humility, and self-sacrificial love set the tone for the way my parents would raise me.

 

Joe’s Baptism Day

 

From birth, my parents took me, along with my older brother Sean, to mass every weekend, instilling in me the importance of relying on God to weather any storm that might blow my way. They helped give my faith space to grow by making the sacrifice to send me to Catholic school: a sacrifice they continued to make in sending me to a Catholic high school, and again in sending me here to Notre Dame.

As I look back on my educational career in these places, I am filled with gratitude to all of my teachers who have helped me get to where I am now. I have been blessed with a number of wonderfully committed teachers, but none have taught me more than my first and greatest teachers: mom and dad.

At each step along my life, my parents have served as beautiful examples of how to live in the light of God’s love, trusting in Him through hardships and giving praise to Him for countless blessings. And all the while, they have poured out more love from their hearts than I thought was possible.

My parents have taught me about God and about how to be a person of faith by living with God at the forefront. They have taught me what love is by showing it to me every single day of my life. They have taught me how to forgive by putting up with me and all my failings. If I continued, I don’t know how long the final list would be. These will suffice though to show that despite all of the things I have learned in classrooms over the years, all of the most important things that I’ve learned in life, I have learned from my parents.

It is common for children to chafe against schoolwork by asking what good it will serve in real life. This has never been a problem when it comes to my parents’ lessons. I’ve never had to parse out what is important to remember. All that my parents have ever taught me has applied to my life. To rephrase it sightly, my parents have taught me how to live. And I am far from done learning.

Joe’s First Holy Communion

While my time in formal classrooms is coming to a close, my education will continue. As I alluded to earlier, I still do not know what I will be doing after graduation. It is an unnerving feeling to live with that uncertainty, but at least I know there is one thing – or better put, two people – that I can rely on. I plan to move back home with my parents, and honestly, I couldn’t be more excited. I have so much still to learn, and while our modern world might look at moving back in with your parents as a step back, I see it as a step forward in my continuing education of life. What better way could there be to grow into adulthood?

The Book of Proverbs tells us that parents are “a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck” (Proverbs 1:8). For most of my life, I haven’t necessarily taken this to heart. I have taken my parents for granted again and again, and yet they still pour out all of their love for me. I can never thank them enough for all that they have done and continue to do for me. It is my sincerest hope, however, to offer all the gratitude that I can to these two remarkable people. They are the manifestation of the living God to me, and the more I know of and from them, the more I know of Him. May I never stop learning.

Why I Still Believe

Flora Tang, Senior Anchor Intern

This past Easter Vigil, I stood beside the baptismal font as 11 beloved members of the Notre Dame community were received into the family of Christ through Baptism, Confirmation, and first Eucharist here at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Whereas this time, I stood by them at Easter Vigil Mass as the intern for Sacramental Preparation, two and a half years ago, I, too, stood in front of this same Basilica and professed before the congregation that I did believe that “all the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.” Somehow, back in the chaotic busyness of sophomore year, I became Catholic.

Whenever I mention to friends and professors that I had only recently become Catholic, the question of “why did you become Catholic?” inevitably comes up: a question to which I have since then recited a 1-minute elevator pitch-length answer, a 5-minute long answer, and an hour-long answer. As I renewed my baptismal promises this Easter Vigil along with my RCIA neophytes, I asked myself again why I became Catholic, and why, two and a half years later, I still believe.

Flora at her Confirmation sophomore year in the Basilica.

Why do I still believe, when I, just this spring break on a pilgrimage, had stepped foot on what was once massacre sites where children were killed during the El Salvador Civil War? Why do I still believe, when I walked through the now-permanent refugee camps outside Bethlehem, where hope or even God seemed absent? Or when the question of theodicy– of why a God who is mercy and resurrection allows for suffering in the world– remains no longer a philosophical question but the heart of stories I hear from people I encounter around the world? Or, on the other hand, why do I still believe, when theological and philosophical arguments tug at the core of what I hold as religious truth? When my political science and peace studies classes reveal more and more the structural violence in the world caused or justified by religious doctrines, including those of my own? When faith, by definition, means that what I hold to be true may not always be substantiated by empirical evidence?

Yet above the altar of almost every Catholic church lies my path to faith every time despair seems to have the last word: a crucified Christ, who unites himself with the bleeding and suffering of God’s beloved world. This crucifix reminds me that beyond all the suffering I see in the world, there is a God whose love is so profound that He comes to walk in solidarity with our suffering. Here on this crucifix, hope lives because the agony of Christ does not have the last word: love and resurrection does.

But just as the Eucharist re-presents the self-giving love of Christ each day, the Resurrection is likewise not just a 1st century event involving earthquakes and blinding lights, but an event I– even during my greatest times of despair– see with my own eyes here and now.

RCIA neophytes share the candlelight during the Easter Vigil

Perhaps I still believe because my eyes have seen the resurrection.

I see the resurrection at the Catholic Worker house downtown, where students and the homeless come together to share meals in dignity and peace. I see the resurrection in the faith of the Salvadoran mother, who remains in hope and fights for the lives of Salvadoran migrants since the loss of her own migrant son ten years ago. I see the resurrection in the student clubs on campus that boldly serve as voices for the voiceless ones at this university; in each friend who lifted me up during my own times of despair and doubt; and in each of the 11 neophytes, who by their baptism, chose a life of hope and discipleship.

I became Catholic, and today still believe in the Catholic faith, because it is ultimately a faith that clings onto the crucifix as well as the hope of the resurrection– the hope that through the life-giving power of love and mercy, redemption can triumph over a world that appears to be plagued by injustice and death. If the resurrection of Christ witnessed by the Jerusalem women on that very first Easter Sunday prompted them to a life of discipleship and faith, so did the everyday resurrection– the everyday acts of unceasing love and hope that continues despite the darkness around them– which I witness with my own eyes strengthened me to become Catholic two-and-a-half years ago, and today, to say: yes, I still believe.

A Lenten Journey

Elizabeth Hascher, Senior Anchor Intern

As a political science and peace studies student, it can sometimes be difficult to make sense of how God works in my life. I spend a lot of time having discussions of heavy topics — genocide, racism, poverty, mass incarceration, and so on. When I’m not talking about these things in class, I’m talking about them with my friends, reading authors like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay, and watching documentaries.

I have developed a fairly good sense of how to balance reflection on serious topics with fun and relaxation. However, there are still plenty of moments when it all just feels like it’s too much. The world is full of suffering and violence, and as just one person, I know I cannot do it all.

This Lent, I challenged myself to journal twice a day: in the morning, and again at night. My hope in doing so was that by taking the time to intentionally reflect on my experiences, I could be more attentive to encounters with Christ and the influence of faith in my life. I wasn’t always successful at making time for journaling, but this practice did illuminate some unique thoughts and patterns that I would not have otherwise noticed.

Elizabeth’s reading and journaling materials

One of the most meaningful insights gleaned through my process of journaling was the influence of one particular reading I did for a peace studies course. As I read through a workbook on conflict negotiation, a short passage from John Paul Lederach, a former Notre Dame professor and well-known peacebuilding practitioner, caught my eye.

In this piece, Lederach writes about his work pursuing reconciliation after violence in various Central American countries. He found one Bible verse to have particular resonance in this setting: Psalm 85:10. Lederach says it is most beautiful in Spanish, but it roughly translates to, “Truth and mercy have met together; peace and justice have kissed.” This place of meeting, he writes, is reconciliation.

As Lent went on, I noticed myself coming back to this verse again and again. It would resurface as I thought about my classes, my conversations with friends, my job search, and my extracurriculars. I have started to see this as something that will serve as a guiding framework for my vocational discernment and call to discipleship. What I study and what I do with the knowledge I have is oriented toward seeking peace, justice, and reconciliation. Furthermore, this meeting of truth, mercy, peace, and justice is an idea which holds great meaning for us all in the celebration of Easter.

During Holy Week, we witnessed how truth and justice, when warped and unchecked, can destroy us. On Easter Sunday, we come to understand how mercy and peace are necessary for our salvation. The Resurrection ultimately only makes sense as the greatest moment of reconciliation, as a place where truth and mercy meet, and peace and justice unite.

Easter Vigil 2018

If we are to live our lives in the hope of the Resurrection and not in Holy Saturday, we should always be seeking this place of reconciliation. As we journey forward through the rest of the liturgical year, may we continue to strive toward this balance of truth, mercy, peace, and justice, in everything we do.

Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope

Julia Erdlen, Senior Anchor Intern

As we approach the final days of Lent during this Holy Week, I find the cross more and more frequently in my thoughts. Unsurprising, when Notre Dame was founded by the Congregation of Holy Cross, the motto became  Ave Crux Spes Unica – Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope. The cross is never far from my mind. This past Sunday, we heard the full Passion narrative and will be immersed in the saving power of the crucifixion this upcoming Good Friday.

“Take up your cross, the Savior said, if you would my disciple be. Take up your cross with willing heart, and humbly follow after me.”

These lyrics have been heard frequently during the Lenten season, for good reason.

We all have crosses, but Lent provides a distinct time to recognize their existence. We reflect, pray, and truly examine our lives during this season. We take up burdens, lift them up, and try not to begrudge the fact that we must carry them.

Simon of Cyrene carried the burden of Jesus Christ, the burden of the instrument of a death sentence that would save the world from sin and death. For however brief a time, he carried the weight. He was not exactly willing, but he nonetheless carried that unimaginable burden. He did not get to choose if he carried that burden. He was pressed into service in this way, drawn out of the crowd to take the weight off of Christ’s shoulders.

Simon carried the weight because Jesus had fallen, had shown his physical, human weakness. Jesus fell, and others saw him do so. There was no hiding his human weakness, on display for those who watched him carry his cross to Calvary. But we can hide. Most of us lack the sort of crosses that are displayed obviously to the world, and the most complicated struggles are often those we can hide. It is easier to hide what we carry when we are not the center of a spectacle designed to mock and ridicule, with the added humiliation of carrying a gigantic wooden cross that will be the instrument of suffering and salvation.

We are not usually subject to quite such a public fall, and do not collapse under our burdens for all to see. Sometimes words fail. Sometimes it takes a visible fall to reveal the heavy burdens that another person could help you carry. If Christ, God made human, can accept the help, we are no weaker for imitating him.

The crucifixion was in front of a crowd, and Christ did not have to find the words to express his human weakness. We often are required to reveal ourselves, to lay down our sorrows at the foot of the cross, and ask for help.

Matthew’s Gospel states “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

The cross does not exactly seem like the easy yoke and light burden that is spoken of in Matthew’s Gospel. But we are all called to be Simon as much as we are Christ. To accept the help of others and to pick up the crosses that are not ours alone. We exist in community, the catholic, universal church, sharing all in common for the good of us all. We must share in carrying the burdens of our friends, communities, and the whole world. It is why we share our intercessions publicly in the residence hall Masses. It is why we ask for prayers from friends when we have stressful exams. It is why we light candles at the Grotto for all to see, that they may pray for our intentions as well.

If we all were expected to carry our crosses alone, without the help of our communities which is ultimately accepting the help of God, we would not be able to rise after our falls.

Overcoming Pride

Mike Anderson, Senior Anchor Intern

“The day I thought would be the death of me was my saving grace.” – Luke Combs

This line from Luke Combs’ song “When It Rains It Pours” has in some ways become my mantra as I reflect on this semester. Coming back from Christmas break, I looked to close out my time at Notre Dame with a positive note, so I wanted everything to be perfect. It was all supposed to work out perfectly where I could finish everything on my Notre Dame bucket list, do fun things with my friends all the time, and finish off undergrad on the best note possible. Unfortunately for me, none of this came true. My semester started off with too much going on, some strained friendships, and nothing going my way. Rather than trying to work on my overwhelming stress and anxiety, I put on the “it’s fine, I’m fine” attitude, internalized all my emotions, and continued on my path. This just further perpetuated my negative feelings, putting more stress on my relationships and isolating me even more. Eventually, I broke down and thought it was the death of me. I completely lost it at the simple question, “Mike how are you?” The strong facade I had been putting forth for weeks had finally broken down and everything I built myself up to be – strong, independent, put together – was lost. It was difficult to admit that I could not do everything on my own and I needed help, but, as said perfectly by Combs, it was my saving grace. I finally started to seek the help that I needed to healthily work through the stress and emotions I had been internalizing. Upon further reflection, I realized that I was holding onto much more than emotions – I was holding onto my pride by trying to maintain the semblance that I could handle everything by myself and didn’t need help. In hindsight, it’s a laughable thought. I not only couldn’t handle everything myself, but I was surrounded by people who were more than willing to help me. Every person that I have talked to since I finally decided to get help said something along the lines of, “Mike you know that I was and always will be here for you right?” Yes, I did, but pride kept me from seeking the help I needed.

Mike bearing a storm with the support of his community.

What I know now is that this pride was also keeping me away from God. Throughout this whole time, my faith and prayer were suffering. I wanted to hide my feelings from everyone, including myself and God so I avoided things that would force me to face my emotions and be honest. I had put on this feeling that I could make it through by myself and did not need or want others or God to help me. As I reflect upon this time, I can see that there was plenty of times that people reached out to me asking if I was okay because something did not seem right. Every time I put on my mask of pride and said I was even though I knew I was not. Only through the death of this pride was I brought back to God and able to work on this relationship again. Rather than avoiding conversations that could lead to talking about my relationship with God, I have sought out meeting with people in order to improve my relationship. In this way, it was only through death that I was able to be brought back to life.

Mike’s community literally lifting him up.

As this Lenten season comes to a close and Easter fast approaches, we look for things in our lives that need to die in order for us to come back to life. For me, I needed to stop telling myself that I could do everything on my own and didn’t need anyone’s help. While I still continue to struggle every day with not letting my pride get the best of me, I always remind myself that I have a supportive community around me. While I might feel like I’m burdening someone by putting my emotions and stress on them, I have to realize that this is exactly what community was made for. And in an odd paradox, I actually found that by trying not to burden my community by keeping everything to myself, I was actually hurting it. The stress I was keeping to myself manifested itself in irritability toward my friends and a general sense of disconnect from everyone around me. This made it less likely for me to hang out and have an enjoyable time with my friends. It may not have felt right at the time, but I have now learned that bringing my problems to my community will actually help my relationships with others as well as with God. This is just another example of how the “death of me” has truly become “my saving grace”.

 

“Where is home for you?”

Regina Ekaputri, Senior Anchor Intern

Where is home for you?”

It’s a question that I get asked quite often here at Notre Dame, and I’m sure it’s one of the most common conversation starters for many of us. Most of the time, I would always take the question literally, answering that I grew up just a little bit outside Jakarta, Indonesia. It’s easy; it’s where most of my family is, and where my childhood home is. But now that the end of senior year is looming, I have gotten to reflect more on what “home” means to me.

Regina pictured with her mom and sisters

Lately, my concept of ‘home’ has expanded. I have come to realize that home is not just about a particular place. In addition to where my family is, I now associate home with the other places, communities, and times when I have been so welcomed, accepted, and embraced with warmth and hospitality, when I have felt at peace and comfortable to be my authentic self, to share my thoughts, beliefs, and values, to engage in heartfelt conversations, and to be vulnerable.

This shift in my perspective came about over this year’s fall break trip to André House of Hospitality in Phoenix, AZ. I was with a group of fellow Notre Dame students, and we were there for the week, serving and engaging with people who are experiencing homelessness. We would start each day by rotating through different jobs from helping with meal preparation in the kitchen, clothing distribution, managing and cleaning the shower facilities, helping at the main office, serving food during dinner time, handing out tickets to the guests, or washing the dishes.

One of my favorite jobs, however, was being a “porter.” It involved staying outside the building, by the entrance, and welcoming guests as they come in. I personally think that ‘portering,’ which sounded like such a simple job, was what makes André House such a special place. The duty comes with opportunities to encounter the people, to engage in thought-provoking, humbling, vulnerable, and genuine conversations with the guests who would come in for the services. I had the opportunity to hear about their day, their struggles and frustrations, and also their hopes and joy. One person sat with me and shared about his few but prized possessions, which included his Bible. He chattered excitedly about the last passage he was reading, and his favorite verses. Another guest shared about his hope of getting housing soon, after having lived on the streets for months. One guest sat down with me and shared about his injured legs, about his daily struggles, tearing up as he stuttered his words out to me. Another came to me and asked me to pray with him right there at the parking lot. We sat down at a bench, and he told me about his experience of being recently evicted from a shelter, and his hope of finding nice housing. He gave me his outstretched and open hands, and we prayed together under the awnings of the parking lot.

Fall Break 2017 at Andre House

The way these people were willing to open up and share such personal and profound things really moved me throughout the time I was there. At first, I was baffled with how much they seem to embrace vulnerability with people they barely knew. However, as the week went on, I also observed the way the core staff and my friends interacted with the guests: asking their names and making the effort to remember them all, listening intently to each guest they encountered, embracing them in warm hugs and greeting them with wide smiles, sharing laughter and tears as the guests shared some of their stories. I realized that they were willing to be so vulnerable because of the way the people at André House reach out to them, offering companionship and human connections with such love and openness.

It was this realization that slowly brought me to see that home is more than just a physical roof above our heads—it’s a place of refuge, hospitality, and solidarity, a place where we feel safe, supported, and loved. In the case of André House, it’s a Christ-centered community that acknowledges and celebrates everyone’s dignity as God’s creation, welcoming people as they are, treating everyone they encounter like Christ himself.

This realization leads me to feel a deep gratitude, as I reflect on the communities and the people that have made me feel at home. I have been blessed to have found ‘pockets of home’ here at Notre Dame, and also in various places I have been since I left my childhood home—in the loving and supportive friends who willingly accept me with all my quirks and occasional sarcastic tendencies and share moments of vulnerability and solidarity, the caring mentors and professors who believe in me and push me to grow as a person, the faith community that walks with me and helps me see God in every little thing I encounter, and also in some moments of prayer and reflection where I feel a deep sense of God’s peace and love. This feeling of gratitude also comes with a sense of hope, as I grapple with the uncertainties of what my post-Notre Dame life would be like. The future becomes *slightly* less daunting as I know that I have not only my loving family back in Indonesia, but also these various ‘homes’ to return to. I also learn to trust more, as I grow in my understanding that ultimately home does not have to be attached to a place, but instead refers to authentic relationships, welcoming communities, and the unconditional love and constant companionship God readily gives for us all.

What a Ski Trip Taught me about Love

Danny Jasek, Senior Anchor Intern

Over Christmas break, I was fortunate enough to travel to the Denver, Colorado area to spend time over the holidays with my dad’s side of the family. My immediate family, my grandparents, and my aunt’s family all rented a house together up in the mountains. This house had everything – a panoramic view of the Rockies without another house in sight, rustic wood-burning stoves, a huge deck with a hot tub, and so much more. During our week there, we visited with a few extended family members, hiked, and even snowshoed.

What was my favorite part of this trip? Skiing for the very first time! We spent three days on gorgeous slopes. While there was definitely a steep learning curve for me, I fell in love with the sport halfway through the second day. It was exhilarating to be able to control myself while hurtling across the snow at twelve-thousand feet. This family trip quickly became one of my favorite vacations ever. Everything seemed perfect. At the same time, I knew this trip was not cheap and that it was a special gift.

Danny and his sister on the slopes

A few days into the trip, something significant happened during prayer. Now, I don’t usually receive any clear guiding words from God, but this time I think I did. While I was praying and reflecting on the many blessings I had received over the past few days, the words “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give” suddenly came to mind. I truly felt like the Lord whispered this verse from Matthew 10 into my ear because I had done nothing to prompt it, and I felt a sense of great peace after hearing these words. I thanked God for revealing Himself to me. At the same time, these words posed a great challenge. Their logic made perfect sense. I was in the midst of receiving so much, and God was encouraging me to learn from this and increase my own generosity.

Self-giving love, agape in Greek, is something so central to the Christian life. In some ways, the role we play is quite simple. We are called to step out of ourselves and our self-centeredness and move towards God and others. In short, we are called to agape – “willing the good of the other”. But this stepping out of ourselves is also a very challenging process. It is simply not in our fallen nature to be so invested in the well-being of others. Radical love for our neighbor makes no sense evolutionarily. Only through God’s grace can we do this.

Agape is something I constantly need to improve upon. I often get caught up in my own desires and fold in on myself. The first thought in my head when I wake up in the morning is usually something like “What do I have to do today?”, and if I am not careful, I default into a mode of existence that involves checking off boxes throughout my day without much of a care for a friend struggling beside me.

So, how was I going to respond to this call from God? Thankfully, the other spiritually striking thing that I experienced over break fit the first one like a puzzle piece. On the Solemnity of the Holy Family, during Mass, the deacon preached to us of the words of Mother Teresa:

“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”

These words struck me like a bolt of holy lightning. I knew at once that they were significant.

I think we all have a desire to change the world in some positive way. However, most of us simply won’t be able to do this on a grand scale. But imagine what the world would be like if all families loved each other just a little more perfectly? The chain reaction effect would be amazing. When we are loved more deeply, we become capable of sharing that love with others. I think the same concept of “family” applies to close friends as well.

After that homily, my mission for the remainder of my vacation seemed pretty clear, and I dedicated myself to attempting to love my family more deeply and truly. I tried to share kind words, be obedient to my parents, and put the wishes of others before my own. And while I certainly didn’t do this perfectly (just ask my family), I was filled with a certainty that this simple task was what God wanted of me at that time, and I found a sense of peace in attempting to fulfill it.

A Jasek family game of “Catchphrase”

I think more often than not, God wants us to love Him in little ways, especially by the way we treat others. Our seemingly insignificant interactions can have a profound effect. It is through the ordinary moments of life that we learn agape. Ultimately, the world will be changed through the summation of small loving actions. What part will you play?

Praying through Panic

Emily Greentree, Senior Anchor Intern

The worst place to have a panic attack might be in the middle of Mass. While I am praising the Lord’s name and listening to his word, my anxiety sits in the pit of my stomach, making me feel like I am at the edge of a cliff. I know that I am safe here in the Lord’s house; I know that God loves me, yet my body and my emotions are convinced that the world is crashing down around me as my hands start to shake and my breath catches in my throat. Forcing myself to take a deep breath, I try to focus on the things I know to be true: I am safe, I am loved, I am breathing, I am sitting in Mass, I will be ok.  I continue to repeat these thoughts until the anxiety that was creeping up the back of my neck recedes and I feel normal again.

Generalized anxiety is a mental disorder that is characterized by excessive worrying about a number of things. The worry is out of proportion to the impact of the events that are causing it. This means that something as small as wondering if my friend had a good time when we went out can cause me to physically panic with worry that I failed them unless I was personally ensured that they enjoyed themselves.  My emotional response to everyday situations can be over-the-top and physically painful. But through my faith in God, I can always find ways to cope with the gap between what is truly happening and my emotional response. My faith acts as a bridge connecting how I feel to my belief in God and His plan for me. 

Grotto candles refracted in a crystal ball.

When I experience a panic attack, my thoughts will race. With no control over what I am thinking, negative statements start playing over and over in my mind tearing me down. This is usually when I start to pray.  Not trusting my racing thoughts, I often just pray the Hail Mary repeatedly as a plea for God to grant me peace. The rhythm of familiar prayer helps slow my thoughts down just enough that I can gain some small measure of control. Then I list out the things I know to be true:

  1. There is a God.
  2. God loves me.
  3. My worth comes from God.
  4. My worth cannot be diminished by anyone but God.
  5. My worth to God does not change because I made a mistake.
  6. I am not any less loved by God because I made a mistake.

By focusing on God’s love for me and the worth his love gives me, I can begin to slow down my breathing and my thoughts.  Taking deeper and deeper breaths, I begin to focus on the truth of my situation, whatever they may be.  Whether I got a bad grade, or embarrassed myself in front of the class, or simply felt overwhelmed by the amount of work I must get done, I can now start to look at it for what it is: a situation that I can handle with God’s love to strengthen me.

This knowledge does not always mean that the feeling of panic goes away. My body may still feel as if I am being physically attacked, even though mentally I know everything is fine. My heart may still be beating fast, my stomach may still be in knots, and my hands may still be shaking. By focusing on God, my faith keeps me on the bridge between how I physically feel and the truth of the situation.  Faith is my bridge between anxiety and reality.