All posts by Kate

Cultivating an Intense Look

Brigid Smith, Senior

Excitement was not necessarily bubbling up within me as I ventured down to the lower level of the Snite Museum to “get to know” a piece of art. With each step I took towards the Medieval Gallery, the silence got deeper and the lights became dimmer giving me a simultaneous feeling of sophisticated studiousness and an inward longing to take a nap. I set up my artist’s stool, opened my notebook, and perched myself expectantly in front of a painting titled, Madonna and Child with a Pomegranate from the Italian School of Botticelli. With wide and intent eyes I looked at the painting and said, “Now, please do tell me all about yourself.” For the next three hours, I “intensely looked” (as my professor called it) at the painting trying to become acquainted, to begin to see it, to allow the image to tell me its story and make its mark on my own.

Jul. 2, 2014; Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame. Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame
Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame

Realizing it probably wouldn’t tell me anything unless I at least became more open and engaged, I turned my passive gaze into an active inquiry. I looked at the colors, the objects, and the basic elements of the piece. I noted the use of light, the incorporation of symbols, the postures of the subjects. I squinted painstakingly at each fold of fabric, wrinkle of skin, and strand of hair until I was sure I hadn’t missed a detail. After a considerable amount of this closed off, surface level, viewing, I began to notice what the painting was actually depicting: Mother Mary and the Christ Child. Suddenly, the particular details I had spent time taking in didn’t seem meaningless. Rather, I realized that they contributed to a story; they helped me form an image of Mary and Jesus in their ordinary life, and I began to reflect on how this might relate to or effect my own. Contrary to my initial expectations, I found myself completely engrossed in the contemplation of the Holy Family and almost excited about what I might see or think about next.

As I look forward to Advent this year, I am reminded of my “intense look” assignment and how it’s a little like Mother Mary and a mindset that can help me approach Advent more intentionally.

When Gabriel came to Mary and told her she would bear Christ in her womb, she didn’t receive all of the answers right away. I can imagine there were times throughout her pregnancy and even Jesus’s childhood when she wondered what was to come or questioned the details and simply had to wait with openness and trust to see what God would bring. She, in a sense, with her incredible Fiat, placed herself permanently at the feet of the Lord, even on the Cross, looking at Him with love and expectantly waiting to see how He would manifest His love for the world. We are told Mary observed, listened, and received all while continuing to “ponder these things in her heart”. Patiently, humbly, and with great perseverance, Mary believed that “nothing would be impossible with God” if she continued to be present and say yes.

Though I wish I could say I always responded to the Lord like Mary, more often than not I don’t. Maybe you’ve felt the way I felt in front of the Botticelli masterpiece about Advent, or Adoration, or even prayer in general. Maybe it seems like you go into a chapel and you just sit and wait and nothing seems to happen. Maybe you’ve had times when you’re down on your knees waiting and all that seems to change is the increasing awareness of how much they hurt. In this season of Advent, we are reminded with Mary that such expectant waiting and availability is not useless, it’s not for nothing but it’s preparing and shaping us for something far beyond our wildest imaginings. Though it might seem slow and at times “pointless,” the process of returning to the Lord, of sitting at His feet and looking at Him expectantly, inevitably transforms us, strengthens us, and makes us ever more ready to receive Him.

Dec. 6, 2015; Advent Lessons and Carols in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)
Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame

I did not leave the Snite equipped with all of the answers or in perfect knowledge of my painting, I didn’t feel like I had conquered my fear of encountering something unknown, nor did I think it was an exercise I would want to do again. But, I did leave more at peace than when I arrived. I did find the time of expectant waiting important and necessary and strangely fulfilling because it prepared me to receive and appreciate more from the painting than I ever could have at first.

I invite you this Advent to take the opportunity to, with Mary, cultivate an “intense look” mindset. Embrace the active waiting, the journey, the small steps and tasks that lead us closer to becoming who we were created to be. Take note of the details, the smallest movements of your heart – both those that bring you joy and those that might ask you to grow – and just spend time sitting with the Lord. Then, allow yourself to be changed by the intense look of love with which Christ looks at you. Ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you in this time of hopeful waiting. For Christ too is waiting. He wants to enter into our lives and help us see more clearly the way of peace, of love, of hope. If we truly begin to adopt this posture of receptivity and openness like Mary did, a posture I learned just a little bit more from my lovely homework assignment, we will not be disappointed for Christ is Emmanuel, He is always with us.

 

Seeing Christ in Our Division

Ben Swanson, Senior

On Wednesday, November 9 I walked into the chapel of the Coleman Morse Center and sat down for the adoration slot I had signed up for months before. I had gone to adoration at this time every week before that day and I will continue to go at this time for the rest of the semester. This time, however, meant just a bit more. I had spent the day watching people make their way around campus as if there was a great weight on their shoulders. Some were talking; some couldn’t find the words to say anything at all. I realized that regardless of the results of Tuesday’s election, people in this country were divided and many were feeling broken.

Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame
Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame

I went around campus trying to look beyond the division to see if Christ was still on the fringes, but people were just too divided to see Him. I went to adoration to ask Him where he had gone and to rise above all the brokenness. I stepped into the chapel, grabbed the Bible from the table, and sat down. This semester I have been working through the gospel of Luke, so I flipped, and read from the next passage:

“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three;
father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

This is not what I was hoping to hear. I wanted the Bible to tell me everything was going to be alright and all divisions would soon fade. Instead, Jesus tells us our houses will be divided. Our families will be split. Sound familiar?

 My fault had been trying to look beyond the division as if somehow Jesus couldn’t exist in that context. Jesus tells us the exact opposite: the division is exactly where Jesus is. Jesus works in our brokenness because it is in times of brokenness and division we turn to Him and to the Father. We cry out as a lost child, “Where are you?” and he responds with the tenderness and care of a parent by scooping us up and holding us tight. We didn’t see Him because we didn’t expect Him to be there with us. We think God is too good and too pure to dirty his hands in the broken lives of humanity. All I had to do was look up and I would have seen how wrong this mindset is. There at the end of the chapel was Jesus hanging, crucified. On that cross is brokenness and division. On that cross is everything we would never want God to see. God entered fully into the darkest places of human existence because every bit of us is worth saving.

Photo by Matt Cashore
Photo by Matt Cashore

As I have walked around campus since that day, I have not tried to look beyond the division. Instead, I look closely at it and see that Jesus is there waiting for us to turn to Him. We must be willing to let Jesus be with us in our fear and brokenness for we cannot get to Him on our own. Jesus has come to us where we are and he wants to hold us in His arms for he loves us dearly. He is our source of hope and the only way we can fix the brokenness. Jesus will carry us close to his heart. We must only have the trust to let Him see us as we are.  

 

Finding Discipline

Adam Wood, Senior

I am not the most disciplined individual. In fact, I’m a pretty heavy procrastinator. I think the thing my mom was most excited about when I left for college was not having to watch me get stressed because I put off homework until the night before. Out of sight, out of mind. These days, when I am home on breaks, I intentionally don’t tell her the things I want to get done while I’m home because I know she’ll ask how they’re going, and I’ll feel stressed because they usually aren’t going at all. Even still, when I was home for a few days over fall break, keeping my to-do list secret didn’t stop her from saying, “You must not have had anything to get done while you were home because I don’t see when you possibly would have done it.”

November 1, 2016; A student studies on a bench in front of St. Mary's Lake. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)
Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame

Unfortunately, my lack of discipline tends to spill into other parts of my life, like not exercising and, more importantly, not devoting myself to regular prayer. I know that conversing with God on a regular basis is a good thing to do. It’s easy for me to connect the most joyful and peaceful times in my life with those times when I had the most consistent prayer life. That is why I find it so frustrating that I struggle time and time again to have ongoing conversations with God. Now I know this is easier said than done. With the steady flow of exams and projects, extracurricular activities, and the ever-present stress involved with finding an answer to the “what are your plans for next year?” question, it is definitely difficult to find time to hit pause on the day and just sit with the Lord for a few moments.

Something that has always helped me with my struggle is being part of a supportive Christian community. This is why I am so glad I chose to come to a school where the opportunities for being a part of such communities are plentiful. From my dorm brotherhood in Fisher Hall, to the Compass groups I lead, to the Notre Dame Vision mentor community, and the friends I have through Campus Ministry, I have been able to connect with individuals who challenge me to strengthen my connection to the living God through prayer. For someone like myself who often struggles with having the discipline to develop my own prayer routine, it is a blessing to have the encouragement of others that share the common goal of growing in faith.

Jul. 15, 2015; ND Vision students walk on campus, Summer 2015. (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)
Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame

When I am able to interact with these small groups, it serves as a wonderful reminder of the beauty within the worldwide community of the Church. It is a reminder that our Christian faith is first and foremost a communal endeavor, and that my motivation for cultivating personal prayer shouldn’t be to feel better about myself, but to be strengthened by God and to be a witness to others. After all, the goal of my life as a member of the Church should not simply be to get myself to Heaven, but to get everyone else there, too. In addition to not being a particularly disciplined person, I also don’t consider myself much of a writer. So I perused the YOUCAT in search of a quote by someone who could say what I am trying to say about Christian community. Before long, I stumbled upon this gem by the French poet Charles Péguy: “We must be saved together. We must come to God together. Together, we must present ourselves before him. What would God say to us if some of us were to return without the others?”

The point of this meandering blog is to say that in my desire to become a more disciplined person of prayer, I don’t need to rely wholly on myself. I should continue to draw strength from others, so that I can, in turn, provide strength for them.

My Way

Jessica Pedroza, Senior

During a recent pilgrimage to Mexico City, Father Joe (famous for Spanish and milkshake Mass) said the language in which you pray and do math is your primary language. I suppose this makes me bilingual. Just as I don’t think twice about breathing, I don’t hesitate to address God in Spanish or reason through the steps of a math problem in English. I’ve always grown up around two languages and two cultures, but my spiritual identity resonates more clearly within my Mexican/Latina culture.

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In front of the old Basilica; Mexico City.

I remember those weeknights as a young girl when my mom, sister, and I would kneel while my dad and brother stood – all of us praying el Santo Rosario (the Holy Rosary) as a family. In the silence of my heart, I would pray for my dad to stop drinking. 

I remember those Friday nights when we’d go to the casa de oracion (prayer house) and worship God through song, clapping and shouting “Gloria a Dios!” (Glory to God).

I remember the day of my Quinceañera and how, in the midst of the princess dress and the big cake, we made sure to stop and celebrate Mass before the party to give thanks to God and leave some roses for la Virgen de Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico.

At some point, the prayer house stopped running. My Sunday parish switched from celebratory, upbeat songs in Spanish to solemn hymns in Latin. I began attending a Catholic high school where the monthly Mass and prayers were in English. But I couldn’t connect with “Our Father, who art in heaven” as much as I could with “Padre Nuestro que estás en el cielo.” I started, for the first time, to study theology and I had so many doubts. And I had forgotten to pray every night because God had already helped my dad to get sober. I didn’t need to ask for much else. 

I didn’t come to Notre Dame to better connect to my Catholic identity. Little did I know, my faith would become an integral part of my experience here.

You can’t imagine…

The love I felt that first night freshman year when Father Joe, knowing I had arrived without my parents, came to visit me in my dorm and left me a note;

The joy I felt when I first went to Spanish Mass and heard the same worship songs I had heard as a child, and recited the Spanish prayers that seem to roll easier off my tongue;

The awe I felt when I saw the impact La Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City had on my friend as he kneeled and cried in front of Nuestra Señora (Our Lady); 

The ache I felt placing a picture of the grandparents I never met on the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Altar at an Institute of Latino Studies celebration; and

The peace I felt spending time alone at the Grotto one Thanksgiving when I couldn’t make it back home to my family. 

After nearly three and a half years, Notre Dame feels more like home than home now, and I think the opportunity for me to worship in both languages has a lot to do with it. I’d love for people to understand that sometimes we seek spaces where we can be completely ourselves. It’s not that I don’t want to participate in my dorm community. Rather, Spanish Mass is the best way I can let God work through me. It is because my culture is full of traditions, like Posadas, when we walk with candles through campus, remembering Mary and Joseph trying to find shelter and Dia de Los Muertos, where we construct altars to remember our dead family members and friends and celebrate life… 

Dec. 3, 2015; Las Posadas walk from the Grotto to Farley Hall. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)
Las Posadas walk from the Grotto to Farley Hall. (Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)

I thought that, in college, I’d get so wrapped up and busy in other things that I would continue to lose that child-like faith I once had. I still fall and I still question, but what a beautiful blessing it is to be able to continue to grow in my faith and experience God at Notre Dame – de mi manera (in my own way).

Come Holy Spirit

Kate Morgan, Associate Director of Communications, Office of Campus Ministry

On the seventh day of our nine-day pilgrimage to France, I had hit a wall. I was physically and emotionally drained and ready to make the journey home to my husband and my four-year-old son. I had nothing left to give. I was void of sympathy for anyone other than myself, including the students I was chaperoning, and unappreciative toward the beauty of the place we were visiting. I was done. Just done.

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The Holy Cross priest who was tasked with meeting us in LeMans had the flu and was unable to join us, and I, as a communications professional and first-time traveler to France, felt ill equipped to provide the guidance and pastoral care our students likely needed. With too many road blocks to navigate, I decided no longer to bother. There was no point. In my mind, it was time to go home.

I lagged behind the first part of the day, fussing and willing it to end. I slept on the bus on the way to Ahuille, the hometown of Fr. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., and sulked into the church, built on the site where our University’s founder had been baptized. Since our priest was ill and unable to join us, we were forced to cancel Mass. In an effort to make our time as prayerful as possible, our seminarian, Cathal Kelleher, C.S.C., asked each of us to share a prayer, hymn, song or other reflection that we used in our own lives to better connect with God. I went first and read from the book of James:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith, but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food? If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”

I love this passage. In fact, I keep a copy of it on the bulletin board in my office above my computer. In my day-to-day life as a Campus Ministry communications specialist, I’m not as interruptible as I should be, so I like to look up and read it when I’m working and someone comes in my office to chat. It reminds me to put down what I’m doing and make time for the people who need me.

Reading James aloud to my fellow pilgrims reminded me that I was not in fact living out my faith through my deeds. I was doing the day all wrong.

I sat in the pew and thought about what I could do to make the day right. In that moment, it was to listen to the students; it was to give them my time.

One by one, each of the 20 students walked to the front of the church to share their prayers. They sang, they talked, they rapped, they read, they shared intimate stories and they brought with them the Holy Spirit. It was palpable. So infectious, in fact, that three French parishioners who were in the church (who didn’t speak any English), asked if they could sing their own song to give thanks to Our Lady.

Since then, I’ve tried to imagine a time when I felt as full with the Holy Spirit as I had in that moment. I cannot. Not when my son was baptized. Not at any Mass. Not in Rome. Not at the Grotto. Not even in Dublin on Palm Sunday when a church full of Irish children read the Passion of Christ. Not any time. Not anywhere.

Tears streamed down my face then just as they do now as I attempt to recount this moment. It was then I understood the true purpose of a pilgrimage: to encounter God during our most difficult, uncomfortable, unfamiliar times. It’s to see him through the things that go wrong. It’s to feel him when we feel hopeless and alone. It’s to rely upon one another for support, courage and strength. It’s to be together in prayer, and to share what makes our inner love lights shine.

I saw God in myself that day, as well as in my colleagues and in our bold, brave, beautiful students. I understood what it means to let go and let the Holy Spirit carry you through, and I witnessed what it means to have and to SHOW faith.

God is with us when it’s ugly; when WE’RE ugly. He manifests himself inside us and inside those who give us strength. The students didn’t need me nearly as much as I needed them that day and God knew it. They broke down my wall and showed me their faith through their deeds. I’m forever grateful to them for their openness and their willingness to share themselves with me. The Holy Spirit was with us all that day just as he’s with us every day. And through him, we all became true pilgrims, and I became a better version of myself.

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Finding Peace in Uncertainty

Brianna Casey, Senior

One Sunday evening early this semester, after a particularly demanding week, I stepped into the Lewis chapel to join my community for mass. I felt emotionally and spiritually drained, which was probably much of the reason I felt that my heart wasn’t fully “with” what was happening in front of me. Over the past several days, I had been struggling with intensified feelings of uncertainty regarding my faith. As I listened to the scripture passages, I began to feel the all-too familiar pangs of doubt. What if we’re wrong? How can I be certain what I believe is actually true? I was frustrated—somehow, the reasons and experiences I had previously used to give rationale to my faith seemed suddenly insufficient, and at that moment I didn’t know what I believed. Still, I dropped to my knees during the Preparation hymn, and I prayed—not to be given the answers, but for God to free me from my anxiety and reaffirm my trust in Him. Instantly, I felt a wave of peace wash over me like cleansing water. In that moment, I was reminded of the awesome power of God to transform hearts and release those who turn to Him from the crushing weight of uncertainty. My questions still remained, but I was able to perceive them with new eyes, without the paralyzing anxiety that had accompanied them only a few moments prior.

brianna
Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame

Doubt, of course, is not something confined to our understanding of the nature of God. We can experience uncertainty when discerning our vocation, career, or any decision that affects our lives. Although as I’ve journeyed through my four years at Notre Dame I’ve become increasingly certain that my calling lies in a career in medicine, I must admit that I still have doubts, as terrifying as that can be. Yet, what keeps me moving forward is trust in the notion that what matters is not so much what we do but the person we become, and I believe that by remaining receptive to Christ we can allow Him to work through our lives in amazing ways, regardless of our particular profession.

I’ve known many people in my life who don’t adhere to any type of religion because of their doubts. They think there may be some validity to believing in God, but they aren’t quite sure, so they don’t want to fully open themselves to the possibility just yet. But I would argue the only way to combat this uncertainty is to take the initial step and enter into a relationship with God. If, when faced with any other decision in our lives we acted only when we were absolutely certain, it is unlikely we would accomplish much of anything or leave room for personal growth. Just as you can’t know if you truly want to be a doctor until you begin to follow the path of medicine and discern as you go, it is impossible to come to know God apart from God. We need to be willing to trust despite our uncertainties and at the same time present our doubts to God in prayer and allow Him to work through them.

I’ve encountered moments of uncertainty regarding both my faith and my vocational path time and time again. Yet I’ve come to see these periods not as failures but as an opportunity to grow. Consider this—each of us carries a unique personal philosophy and a particular representation of the world. When we have an experience that doesn’t fit neatly into our paradigm, we have the option to either reject it or alter our philosophy to accommodate it. This is the reason why we can be so sure of our beliefs at one point and be overcome with doubt later on. New experiences require us to reach a new equilibrium, and it is in this way that uncertainty allows us to break down our prior understanding of God and build a more perfect one. Thus, experiencing doubt doesn’t make our faith weak; rather, it can actually serve to strengthen our beliefs and challenge our faith to reach a new level.

Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame
Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame

To all those reading this today who are experiencing doubt in any aspect of their lives: do not despair. But also, don’t try to overcome your uncertainty alone. I encourage you to take your fears and inhibitions to prayer, asking God to transform your heart and grant you clarity of mind. I won’t promise the answers will come all at once. But I do hope you will be able to find peace and deepen your understanding of what is True. It begins with trust, and trust strengthened by prayer.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

 

A Work in Progress

Thomas Wheeler, Senior

After an especially tough week last semester, I sat down on a Friday in my hall  chapel to pray Night Prayer. The psalm for the night, Psalm 88, finishes with the line: “My companion is darkness,” which leaves us with a call to faith and to trust in God’s promise of redemption even when we feel all alone.

January 3, 2012; The Symbols of Christ on the outside wall of the Hesburgh Library. Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame.
The Symbols of Christ on the outside wall of the Hesburgh Library. Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame.

On this particular night, however, I was not having it. The struggles of school, relationships with friends, a scary and unexpected visit to the doctor, and my (not uncommon) failures at avoiding habitual sin had left me in pieces. I finished Night Prayer and sat in a state that can only be described as worn out and emotional.

I went upstairs, got my journal, and went back to the chapel, but the only thing I wrote that night was “Jesus, I’m done.” That week, I had said my prayers, spent time in adoration, led my small group, helped at Youth Group, and tried to love those around me with an open heart. I tried so hard to be mindful of the goodness of God’s promises and live a life of joyful witness to Christ’s saving love. But at that moment, I wasn’t filled with joy at all. All I could think of was how much pain and stress I had suffered that week. Yet here I was, reading prayers from my book even though my heart wasn’t in it. I felt alone in my struggles, and this last line from Psalm 88 did not help heal the wound.

It was in that moment of brokenness I could feel God telling me, “I want to know.” I felt comfort in bringing my suffering to God and letting him know my weakness, even if I had directly offended Him. I looked across the chapel to the Tabernacle and reminded myself that God does not keep His distance from me. In the Eucharist, He enters me and dwells within me. He knows already, knows everything that is going on inside me, so why not go ahead and be honest with Him about where I am. God doesn’t want me to act like I’m doing alright when I’m not. If I’m struggling, God wants to hear it. And God wants to help.

What I learned from this experience is that through all the times in our lives, especially in the times of our most piercing brokenness, God wants us to be real with Him, because He wants us to know we need Him. It is so easy to go through the motions of prayer, and even to commit to spending a certain amount of time in prayer every day. But none of this amounts to letting Jesus see our wounds, and begin the process of healing them.

It isn’t easy to let Christ into the depths our hearts; to allow him to tear down the hidden walls of pride and sin, and give him the space to build God’s kingdom there. But that’s where holiness lies. We cannot grow in perfect love and joy if we do not first let God perform surgery on our hearts. He fixes what is broken and fills the holes in our hearts with himself.

Even when my relationship with God is stable and my prayer life is flourishing, I am still a work in progress. I am not a saint yet, but I earnestly want to be one. While I know I’ve committed my life to following Christ, I still fail him all the time. But God is still performing surgery on my heart, and the most important thing I can do is let Him see my wounds so He can heal them.

“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a humble and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17

Walking in Faith in the Dark

Erica Pereira, Senior

Last semester, I studied abroad in Santiago, Chile. A few of my friends and I had the opportunity to spend a few days backpacking in Patagonia, which is the wilderness in the southern-most part of Chile, at the end of the world. It truly felt like another planet in the great beauty we encountered there.

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The highlight of the trip and the pinnacle of beauty in Patagonia are the Torres del Paine. They are huge towers of rock that shoot up into the sky. The best time to see the Torres is at sunrise when the light from the sun rises and casts a bright orange color on the rocks. To see this once in a lifetime sight, we rolled out of our tents in the pitch black, snapped on our headlamps, and started the strenuous 45-minute hike up. No one could see particularity well, and next to us was a huge, black crevasse with depths we could only imagine in the dark. All we could see were the steps in front of us and the lights of the headlamps of the people behind us and ahead of us all in a line—all hiking to the same destination.

Our sleepiness quickly waned as the number of steps and rocks we were climbing increased. When we finally reached the top, the excitement was unbearable. It was still pitch black, but I could just barely make out the silhouette of the three giant towers. I had seen so many pictures of it before, and here it was! Right in front of me. I had never experienced such an atmosphere of exciting anticipation.

We sat down in the cold and windy weather and waited for the sun to rise. Each moment was more exciting than the next because in each passing minute we could see just a little bit more of the Torres. As more and more light came, we could see that there was a small lake in front of them—something we had no idea was there in the dark. And the true and glorious beauty of the Torres was revealed. We sat there (slightly shivering) in awe of its wonderful beauty. My friend Anna said to me that this moment was a lot like heaven. Right now on earth, we only have a glimpse of heaven like we only had a glimpse of the Torres before sunrise. But when heaven is fully revealed to us, the glory of it will be awe-inspiring. My experience at the Torres was truly a glimpse of that eternal peace and glory.

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On our hike back to the campsite, I was reminded of the saints and their headlamps walking in front of me, leading me to heaven. I could only see the present moment—the step right in front of me, but I was guided by their light. We are all walking in faith in the dark to something we cannot yet fully see. We are all headed to the same place, with the same goal.

The reality of heaven and the hope of what we cannot yet see are so present in our lives. Each day is a tiny glimpse of the eternal love that has been offered to us. It is a reality that we are called to be in awe of, and to bask in each day. Let us rest in the hope and awe of salvation in Christ.

“For this momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”-2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Patagonia

Faith Through Transitions

Emily David, Senior

Since the day I moved into South Hall at Holy Cross College in August 2013, I’ve lived in 6 cities, 4 states, 2 countries, and on 2 campuses. The past 3 years have been full of movement, transferring to ND with the first Gateway class, living in a different place every summer for an internship, spending a semester navigating the gem that is Rome, and going home to southern Indiana for the holidays and short breaks. As a senior reflecting back not just on all the places I’ve lived but also on the adventures and busyness packed in between, I can see why many of my friends and family have asked me, “Do you ever stop?”

View from the Top of Saint Peter's Basilica.

View from the top of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Rome, Italy.

The truth is, I do stop. I try to do so daily. Wherever I am. And this is part of the reason I’m able to (imperfectly) follow where the wind blows.

At Holy Cross, it was at daily Mass right before lunch. In DC, it was reflection on the metro or on the roof of my uncle’s apartment. In Texas, on walks during breaks at work, and at yoga. In Rome, at a new church almost every day. In Boston, at a chapel in the middle of a shopping-convention center. Or on a park bench. At Notre Dame, in any chapel, especially in Adoration at CoMo or kneeling in front of the tabernacle in Geddes. Or, in the Lyons chapel in the middle of late-night paper writing. And in all of these places, God answered my need for companionship with friends who accompany me in my faith.

It’s not easy: transitioning into college, into unfamiliar places and crowds in new cities, anticipating the transition into the working world, transitioning from one class to another, changing majors and adding and dropping minors, changes in relationships, living with new roommates, changes in health, and everything in between. “Do you ever stop?”

There are challenges with all of these movements, some easier than others, and I’ve learned there needs to be a constancy through it all, or else I find myself lost in the thoughts and worries I often create. A routine is helpful- for me, between Lyons, South, Debart, and CoMo- a checklist for the day’s major to-dos is helpful, a regular call home is helpful, and regular meals and honest conversations with friends about our struggles in addition to our joys are helpful to remind us that we aren’t alone.

Yet, even these things aren’t enough, especially when we’re thrown off balance, when plans fall through or are interrupted, when a 3 page paper takes 10 hours longer than expected, when we catch a cold, when it rains on game day, when we suddenly realize how unhappy we are with our major, when someone we love passes or moves away, or when family dynamics change.

Boston
Farmer’s market outside my workplace in Boston, summer 2016. Sunflowers are a reminder for me, especially in the hustle and bustle of the city, of the beauty that comes from growing toward God, just as sunflowers grow toward the sun.

I have a great need for a constant that is not of my own effort or creation, because, let’s face it- I, like most of you, am already exhausted keeping up with everything else.

My experience is illustrated by composer Chopin’s lovely “Raindrop Prelude.”

In the 6 minutes and 26 seconds of this beautiful melody, all of life is present: one moment you’re happy, then sad, some moments are more intense and uncertain, others are simpler and more peaceful. Chopin really tugs at our emotions as he expresses the human fragility and unstableness that we’ve all experienced.

If we change our focus a little bit as we listen to this piece, we can hear a single note repeated over and over again that underpins the larger melody. The most boring note in the background becomes the most interesting as we sense there is a strength that comes through the transitions. It is the heartbeat that guides the whole story.

Listening to this, I ask myself, what is my source of strength, joy and hope through my fleeting emotions and circumstances? What is the backbone and constancy through the ebb and flow, changing seasons, and all the transitions? What unifies everything in my life?

fall 2013

God, unified with the desires of the human heart, is always there.

Following where the wind blows, for me, is following the calming wind of the Holy Spirit. And I can only follow when I stop and pause to pray. To remind myself of this guidance, I integrate a simple yet powerful prayer into my days:

“My Lord and my God!”
From John 20:28- a recognition of God among us, as St. Thomas exclaimed when he put his hand into Jesus’ pierced side.

Notre Dame has further instilled in me that one’s “faith life” doesn’t have to be separate from the rest of life. I’ve discovered that my faith is the guiding backbone through every transition. I’ve discovered faith to be a relationship with God who is the heartbeat that is always there, giving meaning and deep joy -even through the difficulties- to everything.

It’s amazing how easy it is to forget this simple fact when the heaviness of life rolls in as it does in Chopin’s piece. In these moments, it takes just a brief pause to pray in order to bring my focus back to what unifies the greater picture. Little by little, I become more deeply rooted in the constant heartbeat of God that guides the melody of my life.

“My Lord and my God!”

Finding God in the Everyday

Kate Walsh, Senior

Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame
Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28

If there is one thing I have come to expect as a Notre Dame student, it is an amazing summer. Despite not being able to see the golden dome on a daily basis, or being deprived of make-your-own-pizza-night at South, I can count on Notre Dame to provide for me in different ways during the summers. But this past summer, my final summer before becoming an alumna of this wonderful University (God willing!) was different. It was not, by my quite high standards, amazing.

My tasks this summer were to take the MCAT. Complete the primary med school application. Drive almost an hour to and from a lab for my unpaid internship. Work on med school secondaries. Repeat.

While I am still grateful for the opportunities I had this summer, and I feel extremely lucky to have worked in a lab near my home and apply to medical school, my overall experience was not as life-changing or fulfilling as say the summer I spent working at my SSLP, or being a small group mentor at Notre Dame Vision. Rather, the daily routine wore me down. Commuting filled me with frustration. As one would probably guess, retelling my greatest challenge and what I learned from it on ten different med school applications exhausted me. And most importantly, I fell out of touch with God. I was so used to the accessibility of Mass and chapels on campus that without them, I was praying much less. But even though I was putting Him to the side, God didn’t forget about me this summer, and one way He showed me was through daily Mass.

If I wanted to, I could have gone to daily Mass at my parish most mornings before making the commute to the lab. Unfortunately, because I typically wanted more sleep, I regretfully didn’t go very often. But one morning I pulled it together and went to 8 a.m. Mass. When I got there, I followed the lead of the almost exclusively elderly congregation and picked my own pew. To begin Mass, the priest started with the Prayer to St. Anne, which alerted me to the fact that it was Novena week. Before I could debate whether it was worth it to take the long walk back to the door to pick up a booklet of prayers, I felt a tap on my shoulder, and a married couple behind me offered me one of their books. It happened so fast that it was nearly a reflex for them, and though my first instinct was to feel embarrassed, I quickly remembered that this was no place to feel self-conscious, so I expressed my gratitude instead, and then was able to recite the prayers that followed in unison with the congregation. That morning, I got to receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist before I headed off to work. My day was centered on God. My commute was less frustrating, as I thought more about the people inside the cars than the traffic jams produced by the cars themselves. Later in the day, as I was pipetting cells and spreading them on a petri dish, I finally remembered that God really is in all the work we do as long as we do it with Him in mind. After attending just one daily Mass, my day turned out radically different, and it was because God filled me with His Grace after I started my day with Him.

(Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)
Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame

After that lovely day, I definitely didn’t make a perfect attendance record at my parish’s morning Mass, but the monotonous, tiring days were more bearable with a heart full of gratitude. I focused more on God and prayer and decided to try something new which was to read more spiritual texts. I think God used this summer to challenge me to mature in my faith, since we both know that I only have one year remaining at the University of Our Lady of the Lake. Still, with school starting back up, I am reminded of how challenging and monotonous the days here can be too. I love Notre Dame, and I am thrilled to be back, but I know football season will end and winter will come, bringing with it projects, exams, and stress.

It is possible that you might already feel overwhelmed or in a rut. If so, I urge you to find your own way to spend time, on a daily basis, with God. We are so lucky to have access to incredible opportunities for growing in faith here at Notre Dame, and God wants us to include Him in all that we do. Whether it is attending daily Mass, finding time to light a candle at the Grotto, going for a nature walk with a friend, or reading a book and praying and reflecting on it, there is something you can do every day, alone or with community, to maintain your relationship with God. I promise you there is enough time, and I know that God will bless your busy-ness with His presence. If this summer taught me anything it’s that it’s a lot easier to find God if you give yourself a chance to look.