Why We Minister: Kate Barrett

Kate Barrett, Associate Director of Liturgy

Sometimes I walk around our almost ridiculously beautiful campus and think, “I can’t believe I get to come to work here every day!” I feel it when heading into the Basilica, or down that awesome center path through the trees between the statue of Fr. Sorin and the Dome, or past yet another group of tourists listening intently to the legends and factoids and lore that make up the Notre Dame story.

You may be thinking, “Aww, that’s sweet – she must be new here,” or perhaps, “Doesn’t she understand that there’s more to Notre Dame than how pretty it is?”

Well, no, I’m not; and yes, I do.

I’m almost embarrassed to say how not new I am … it’s been almost 36 years, actually, since I moved into Farley Hall as a first-year student, with a couple of short breaks here and there. A few things have changed: the bookstore, a tiny building on South Quad, was so cramped that at busy times you’d have to line up outside and wait your turn just to enter the building to buy books or t-shirts. What’s now West Quad was still about nine holes of the 18-hole Burke golf course, then our only campus course.  So you might think I’ve been here long enough to get used to working (and at times, living) at Notre Dame.  Nonetheless, I still have frequent moments of newbie-like awe at my great fortune to have the job I do, as it gives me the opportunity to accompany others as they explore their faith, and in so doing help me grow in mine. 

Main Quad // Photo by Matt Cashore

After a career path in Campus Ministry that could at best be called “meandering,” and including more years than not of a very part-time schedule while my children were younger, I have been fortunate to land on the Liturgy team.  Here (mind. blown. again.) I have the distinct privilege of supporting our common prayer all over campus: the residence halls, the Basilica, the Grotto, even the Purcell Pavilion when we turn it into a giant, temporary church a few weekends a year. I hope my ministry plays a small part in helping all our varied communities – students, faculty members, staff and visitors – to share our faith, to practice it, to try and fail and try again to draw closer each day to Jesus Christ.

Over the last three-plus decades I have learned that Notre Dame is exponentially more than its gorgeous campus; it’s more than all the facts and stories, embellished or otherwise, that you learn as a visitor, student or long-time faculty or staff member.  At various times, Notre Dame has moved me, disappointed me, infuriated me, mystified me, and impressed me beyond my wildest imaginings.

Underneath the physical beauty of this place lies a foundation of 175 years of people faithfully seeking to know, love and serve God through a bold belief. We believe that we can find truth in the classroom and in the Basilica; in the lab and at the Grotto; in the Hesburgh and Kresge and Mahaffey libraries and in the chapels of each of our residence halls.

As a student at Notre Dame I somehow knew that I had come to a place deeply saturated with trust in God, a place that truly desired to share that trust with me and each of my fellow students.  If you are reading this as an incoming first-year student, please know that if you are open to beginning or deepening your relationship with Jesus here, it’s perhaps the best gift Notre Dame can give you. 

Freshman first visit to the Grotto // Photo by Peter Ringenberg

Um, how about an education, you might ask (or your parents might want to ask)? Yes, exactly.  The deeper gift of Notre Dame lies in the truth that emerges from the “and.” Your education will be of your mind and your heart, grown in the library and the chapel, in friendships and in service, alone at prayer and joined in shared worship, in sorrow and in joy, when God feels acutely present to you and even when you feel most alone.

While you may think this place is beautiful to look at, especially when you are first learning your way around, pay attention to the ways in which the beauty goes much deeper than that.  You’ll notice the beauty in the people who will become your dearest friends; in the opportunity to bring your joys and sorrows to prayer at the Grotto or in the chapel just a few steps from your room.  You’ll notice it in the questions you’ll ask your classmates and professors and rectors – and the answers will be more complete because we can have the courage to allow faith in God to be a critical part of the conversation.

All these ways I’ve come to know Notre Dame over the years kept popping into my head while asking myself “why I minister.”

You incoming first-years who are reading this? You’re why I minister; you’re why we all do. Hope to see you under the trees on God Quad’s center path.

Why We Minister: Tami Schmitz

Tami Schmitz, Associate Director of Student Ministry

     “What do you want to be when you grow up?” From second grade until I entered the collegiate world at age 18, the answer to this question was “a teacher or a social worker.”  I come from a family of teachers and have always loved school, so teaching seemed like a natural fit. I also had a heart for the poor and wondered if working for a service agency was my calling.  Of course, God had a bit of a different plan which took shape most intensely and beautifully during my college years.

    “What do you want to be when you grow up?” From second grade until I entered the collegiate world at age 18, the answer to this question was “a teacher or a social worker.”  I come from a family of teachers and have always loved school, so teaching seemed like a natural fit. I also had a heart for the poor and wondered if working for a service agency was my calling.  Of course, God had a bit of a different plan which took shape most intensely and beautifully during my college years.

     My four years as an undergraduate at St. Norbert College were some of the best years of my life.  I formed friendships that continue to be some of the most important in my life to this day. I loved my professors and my classes (well, most of them…Statistics is another story!). By sophomore year, I claimed “Sociology” as my major.  I was very involved in extra-curricular’s ranging from Hall Government to intramural sports to community service.

Tami, right, and her St. Norbert College roommate Pam

      One of the largest influences during my time at St. Norbert was something called “Campus Ministry.” This was something I never heard of as I was a product of the public school system and tended to my faith through my home parish on Sundays and in weekly CCD classes.  I had never heard of a person called a “Campus Minister.”  My dear Aunt Lois played the organ at my parish every Sunday morning, so that was about the closest thing to a professional lay minister I had encountered up to that point in my life and she was a volunteer!  Slowly, but surely, I became more involved in this thing called “Campus Ministry” and developed wonderful relationships with members of the team which included both lay men and women and Norbertine priests.  The Masses, retreats, Bible Study, the First Communion Class I taught, and the community service I participated in all helped shape me in ways I never intended or expected. I had some wonderful Theology classes, too!

     I share this part of my journey because those four years were the most transformative years of my life (so far!).  By the time I reached senior year, my answer to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” became clear. I answered, “a Campus Minister!”  My faith had grown in ways I never imagined. I realized I actually had a “vocation” and was hearing God invite me to a life of ministry within the Church.  I was being called to integrate my faith into my entire lifestyle, including my job.  I had wonderful spiritual directors and friends along the way who helped me sort through this experience.  I encountered Jesus in a profound way through the people, classes, and experiences I had during those years. I could not deny the discipleship I was being invited into by God.

     Since 1986 (the year I launched into the workforce as a college graduate), I’ve always served as a full-time minister. I dabbled in parish and high school ministry for a few years, but truly found my calling in college Campus Ministry and have been serving in that role for the past 25 years.  It’s no huge secret why I may have landed here since my own college years were so transformative for my journey of faith.  I simply love college students! I love the stage of life between 18-22 years of age because college students are asking some of the most important life questions: What are my core beliefs? Who is God and what difference does faith make? What should be my major? What’s my vocation? What are the most important relationships in my life? What does our world need from me to make it better? What are my gifts and passions?”

Tami and ND students walking the Camino in Spain

     Walking with students as they wrestle with, ponder, and embrace some of these most important questions of their lives is the greatest joy of my life.  I look to Jesus and see how he “walked” with a variety of people on their journey of faith such as the woman at the well, the man born blind, the paralytic, and the disciples and I feel called to do the same, particularly with college students.  There are many things that can easily distract students from paying attention to their faith lives. There are many “things” that seemingly satisfy us in life. However, I found that there is nothing better, or more meaningful, than following Jesus, who is “living water,” the “bread of life,” and our “Good Shepherd.” I simply want to share that message and help students encounter Jesus along the way. As students grapple with important life questions, as a minister, I love the opportunity to remind them to not forget about Jesus and their faith lives during their time of discernment. In fact, I suggest that one’s faith and values is a great place to START when considering the “BIG” questions.

        When a ND student is asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I hope the answer has something to do with their passion, their gifts, and most importantly, their faith in Jesus which will inspire them to be the “good news” wherever God is sending them into the world.

Why We Minister: Rebecca Ruvalcaba

Rebecca Ruvulcaba, Multicultural Ministry

“Ministry is a participation in the threefold ministry of Christ, who is priest, prophet, and king.”  ~ USCCB, Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord

Pies del Bautizado (Feet of the Baptized),
Picture of my feet after a walk in the Valley of Death. May 2016

What is a minister?
For years I believed that a minister was only associated with a member of the clergy. I never realized that for years I had been an active minister; participating in the “threefold ministry of Christ.” I grew up serving and participating in different parish ministries but I really did not understand my participation until I lived a retreat called Christ Renews His Parish as an adult. My baptism for years was being lived out unconsciously.

I participated in Jesus’ ministry unknowingly (to some extent) because my parents taught me that we must all work for the betterment of society. We must seek to serve others because that is how it should be. I do not remember my parents, or any other mentor in my life, mentioning the fact that because of our baptism we are called to serve as Jesus did and that our ministry in the world is Jesus himself in the world. My understanding of my service was because it was just something we did as good people. I watched my parents give their talents and gifts, and how they loved humanity, and I desired to do the same. Therefore, my active life in Jesus existed without really knowing that He was the one working in, with, and through me

When was the first time I realized I desired to give more beyond just a “job”?
It was the Holy Spirit that moved my heart at the CRHP retreat, and I realized that God had always been guiding and moving me in His direction; serving and “ministering” to, with, and for His people. For many years my “work” was because I desired to give of myself to the community. I had worked in food pantries, with migrant farmworkers (making sure that they had medical assistance), leading girl scout troops, and confirmation classes at my parish.

After living the CRHP retreat in 2009 my “work” became God’s, and my desire to give of myself became Jesus’ gift of self in and through me. I realized that I was His vessel, I was serving and giving God’s love that had become part of me. The only reason I was able to serve at my parish, to serve at my job, and to serve my family and friends was because God’s love had penetrated my being. My life became as the apostle Paul says in his letter to the Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). My life was of God’s and it had always been. All that I had done in my life was because Jesus lived in me, and I now desired to live more fully in him.

When have I felt overwhelmed and/or consumed by Jesus in ministry? Why?
In these 8 years of consciously serving in the vineyard of the Lord (Mt 20:1-16) I have found myself often overwhelmed and consumed by Jesus. He has filled my heart so much that I often find my thoughts consumed by Him and I have found myself often saying: “Padre Mio, Aqui Estoy” (My Father, Here I Am). There is peace, joy, and an amazing love that consumes me and I desire to give myself to all that He desires. There is a growing fascination I have for Jesus, and I have fallen in love with Him and all He did and does in, with, and through all of us. My heart is so much more compassionate and generous with and for others because of Jesus’ heart in me. I desire a deeper relationship with Jesus. I sit with Him often to listen for His word, and I pray for His guidance and wisdom. As I move in the world, Jesus allows me to encounter Him in all people and I have come to love Him in the flesh through each of them.

In the spring of 2015, I started to have an overwhelming sense that there was something I needed to do that was not academically focused. I had spent four semesters and two summers studying about God and my heart was missing something. I went to visit the director of HIM (Hearts In Motion, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the poor in Guatemala) and found myself with a desire to serve the poor in Guatemala. I withdrew from my next summer session and the organization found a sponsor which allowed me to I fly with a team of doctors, nurses, and students to Zacapa, Guatemala.

I thought I was to work in an orphanage organizing a soccer camp for the local children but God had other plans for me. I spent 11 days as a medical interpreter. It was one of the most humbling and moving experiences of my life. I encountered Jesus in every single child that saw the doctors, and I heard the concerns and love in the voices of the parents. I felt His love in every hug and heard God’s voice in the words of gratitude that the people expressed. I had been studying of God but my heart desired to know Him at a deeper level. I desired to be consumed not just intellectually but spiritually.

 

La Cara de Jesus (The Face of Jesus), Interpreting in Zacapa, Guatemala, Summer of 2015.

What called me to Campus Ministry and working with Multicultural Ministry?
As I continued on in my academic studies, I realized I needed to continue ministering in my parish community at St. Adalbert/St. Casimir seeking to encounter Jesus on a deeper level. Nonetheless, there was something more that God wanted from me. As I was approaching my final year of studies, I was confronted with having to discern where God desired me to serve His people in the best way possible. In my years of study in the MDiv, here at the University of Notre Dame, I always believed that I would be doing parish ministry full-time at my home parish. It never crossed my mind to be anywhere else but God had other plans.

I was called to Campus Ministry, specifically multicultural ministry, because of God’s many servants in His vineyard who knew of my experience and work in the Latino community and in the Catholic Church. I came with no expectations and future inclinations to make ND Campus Ministry my place of ministry but God in His boundless wisdom placed me in the path of some of the most amazing and loving young people. For years, my husband and I prayed for children but we were never blessed with our very own. However, over the years, God has given us many spiritual children. I’ve come to realize that here as Campus Ministry I will be able to love and care for many of His young people.

Through the years, I have worked with many different communities and experienced many different ways of life. I have ministered in a large Latino Catholic community and encountered Jesus in a non-Catholic homeless person. I have worked with Jews, Muslims, and Christians on social justice issues and I have ministered in a diverse community on the West Side of South Bend providing food and youth programming. God has guided me here to Campus Ministry and multicultural ministry. I have learned that there is no difference in who we serve. Jesus loved everyone and cared for all no matter their ethnic background, culture, and/or faith background. “Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon” (Mark 3:7-8). During His ministry, He reached out to Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans, and Romans. I was attracted to multicultural ministry because of Jesus’ example and the call to live the “eternal gospel” which is to preach to “every nation and tribe and tongue and people” (Rev. 14:6).

Why do I minister?
I minister because of my threefold ministry in Christ. In my priestly call I pray for wisdom and the heart of Jesus; in my prophetic life I speak through, walk in, and proclaim with the Truth; and in my royal commission, I govern my interior being to be able to serve and care for the people of God. I minister because of whose I am in and through my baptism.

 

“Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” ~ Matthew 28:19 

Why We Minister: Mike Urbaniak

Mike Urbaniak, Assistant Director of Leadership Formation

During my sophomore year as an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame, I was invited to attend a Campus Ministry retreat. One would naturally think this conversation took place after one of the weekly residence hall masses, at one of the many events hosted by Campus Ministry, in my Theology class, or maybe even in the dining hall. All of those sound like good plausible answers, but they would be incorrect. This invitation came in the cozy and somewhat smelly confines of the Siegfried Hall weight room while bench-pressing with a friend. It was a simple invitation in a completely commonplace environment that I look back to as one of the major guideposts as to why I am where I am- why I minister. It wasn’t that the retreat I subsequently attended was revolutionary or changed my life forever after a weekend of prayer, fellowship, and fun. Rather, it was the beginning of an awareness of the often slow and subtle movement of God and to a life’s trajectory that I had never expected. This retreat, while wonderful, was not earth-shattering. What it did for me, however, is introduce me to people, spiritual practices, and a consideration of life that would gradually lead me to reconsider my vocational call (up until that point, I had wanted to follow in the footsteps of my mother and enter the medical field).

Fast forward three years and I find myself coordinating that same retreat as a graduate intern. As the Campus Minister present on the retreat, there was a point at which I was available for individual conversations with anyone who wanted to talk. Although I only had a handful of people come and talk with me that night, I heard a common sentiment within each of the conversations: “I am not worthy of love.” I listened at that time, and on many occasions since, to so many people who don’t think they are worthy of true and unconditional love. They are often convinced or operate under the pretenses that their worthiness to be loved is conditional on a certain status, role, achievement, income, weight, look, performance, or some other standard of perfection that can never truly be met. My own experiences in life from my upbringing in an imperfect but loving family, to schooling, to friends, to my encounter and relationship with Christ in prayer, to sharing the grace of marriage with my wife, and parenthood to our precocious and ever-joyful daughter has shown me otherwise. I am not worthy of love because I am a “double-Domer” (graduating twice from Notre Dame), because I was a high school valedictorian, because I am a regular attendee at Sunday Mass, or because I work in Campus Ministry. No. God loves each and every one of us. Period. It does not matter our grades, our occupation, our income, or whatever different ways our culture often pressures us to consider ourselves worthy or “successful.” We are simply loved as beings created by God.

Mike, second from left, with student leaders on the retreat he led as a Campus Ministry Intern.

This is my fundamental call as a minister- to help others to recognize and better understand who they are fundamentally. I encounter a lot of students who have crises of vocation, who have a world of options in front of them, who wonder if they are making the right choice if they major in Accounting, take a consulting job in Chicago, win a Fulbright scholarship, or enter the seminary. In and of themselves, none of these things are good or bad. But, the path and decisions we make, when done with an understanding of being loved by God and in relation with God, are oriented to something eternally good. It puts us in a position that no matter our circumstance in life, we are oriented to serve others and show one another the same love that each of us is granted in our very existence. This is the love of God that no teacher, parent, adversary, politician, or judge can ever take away. It is the same love that fundamentally causes us to consider how it is we are to live in this world. It is the greatest gift we can ever receive and it is my deepest heartache to know that there are people who don’t think they are worthy of love.

The role I currently hold in Campus Ministry at Notre Dame works in the formation of student leaders. Fortunately, most of the students I work with on a daily basis have a grasp on their belovedness by God (though in the stressful and overachieving environment of college, they too need frequent reminders). I love to be on the frontlines, to be the listening ear of compassion, to be the presence of God to another, reminding them or letting them know or feel for the first time that they are loved just for being.

Mike, pictured in back with his arms wide open, surrounded by student leaders he works with.

I would like to return to that opening invitation from my friend. I had already seen the retreat posters several times. I had known of the retreat, read emails about it on multiple occasions, and heard from Campus Ministry staff. None of those things actually convinced me to sign up. I don’t know if I would’ve ever gone on the retreat without that invitation and wouldn’t have had that reminder of God’s love. It was the confidence of a peer in faith that invited me into that love and is exactly what I hope to inspire in the students I work with. Through their simple invitation and witness to the love of God, they can bring others to God. We each have that power and capacity, and students are uniquely suited in this college environment to make that invitation, to have a meaningful conversation, and to pray. I can only pray and trust in the work of God that I have been and can continue to be an instrument in the same way that my friend was by helping someone along their journey to recognizing the love of God.

Certainty in Something Greater

Emily David, Senior Anchor Intern

We all know the feeling of being overwhelmed. We have lived this pattern of trying to get everything done in a day to get to bed at a decent hour, working right up to deadlines, and then only being able to relax for a bit… repeat. We say we’ll get ahead over the weekend -which probably only happens 5% of the time for me- and then Sunday 10 PM rolls around, and we’re frustrated that we’ve paradoxically neither been “productive” nor honored the Lord’s day of rest. In moments of overwhelming busyness, I tend to remind myself, “OK, this has happened countless times before. You’ve got a few late nights ahead. But it’s all going to get done. It always does. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good… or done… just get past these papers due Friday… the weekend is almost here…” and so on.

Photo by Barbara Johnston

How many times have we found hope in the next thing? To what extent does having something to look forward to fill us with some consolation in the present moment? Reflecting on this has taught me two things: 1) I seek hope in something beyond myself, and 2) I want joy and consolation now. “Once I make it to Thursday after this exam, I’ll be OK.” But don’t we want to be OK now, on Tuesday? Don’t we want to live now? Something so much greater, something beyond ourselves promises life now.

I just returned from Rome where I led the Holy Week Pilgrimage for ND students studying abroad. It was a week of pure joy, which I carry with me now, despite the work left to do as the semester wraps up. Closing his homily on Easter Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis encouraged us to think about the everyday problems of life and say, “with a humble voice…to God who’s in front of us: ‘I don’t know how this is going, but I’m sure that Christ has risen.’” I could see that Papa Frank was hurting for the world. Yet, there was a peaceful serenity about him: he accepts reality because he is certain of something greater that fills the present reality with hope.

This “something greater” is the resurrection. My certainty is in God’s mercy incarnated in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son. My certainty is in a past event of 2,000 years ago, because the Mystery present then continues to change everything now. We need a yearly reminder at Easter of the daily reality of the resurrection. Similarly, I have certainty that I will make it through my busy weeks and exams because my past experience reminds me that everything will be OK no matter how hard it seems right now. Our remembrance of Good Friday reminds us to acknowledge the real feelings of hopelessness surrounding Christ’s death but to keep our hearts set on the hope of the resurrection that we know will be realized two days later. That one day is meant to help us acknowledge our own suffering while reminding us to seek hope in prayer through our personal “Good Fridays” throughout the year.

Easter at Basilica of the Sacred Heart // Photo by Matt Cashore

Don’t get me wrong, reminding myself that the papers will get done and that the weekend is almost here does help me chug through everything. Additionally, in moments of overwhelming busyness, let’s remember to pray. Just a short, simple prayer: God, please help me to get through this. I place myself and this work into your hands. I know that after praying, I still have work that needs to get done, choices I need to make, and consequences to accept. I may not feel a surge of peace after prayer, but even the simplest prayer is an act of trust that fills my soul with a deeper peace beyond emotions, with strength despite my sleep deprivation. Prayer is a powerful acknowledgment of the One who promises us life right now, of which we are reminded during our Easter celebration. God, “I don’t know how this is going, but I’m sure that Christ has risen.”

God’s Plan for my Lenten Season

Kate Walsh, Senior Anchor Intern

I remember a certain Lent during my high school years where I stuck to my Lenten sacrifice like glue. I had given up gluten, for several reasons. For one thing, I really love bread, pasta, and baked goods, and knew this would be a tough sacrifice. My other motivation, however, was that my mom had celiac disease, and I wanted to have a greater understanding of her daily sacrifice. God helped me be really consistent that year, and I had a grace-filled Lent that prepared me to welcome Easter with more joy and anticipation than I had ever experienced before! Talk about a shot in the arm for my faith life.

Fast-forward to this year, where I am a busy college senior trying to figure out, among many things, how I want to claim my faith life as my own once I leave this wonderful place. As I prayed about what I wanted to do for Lent this year, I kept feeling a pull to get to know Jesus in a more personal way; I craved to grow in deeper relationship with Him. Because of this, someone suggested to me that I engage in Lectio Divinia every day in Lent. Lectio Divina is a way to read Scripture that involves more meditation and trying to listen to what God wants to say to you through His Word. I made my checklist of which readings to do each day, and was ready to go!

Via Dolorosa // David Swenson

Well, unlike that year in high school, this Lent did not go so perfectly. I fell a little behind on my list of readings, and though I did feel like I was growing in my faith life, sometimes feelings of failure (which should not be what Lent is all about) started to creep in. As I sit here reflecting on the second half of Lent, however, I am realizing that during this time, God was just providing for me in an unexpected yet huge way.

I fell behind on my agenda for Lent in part due to my pilgrimage to the Holy Land. As a campus ministry intern, this trip was my main focus all semester, and going on the pilgrimage itself was an incredible experience. Though the busyness of our days and my jet lag-induced tiredness at night hindered me from sticking to my mapped out reading plan, God was allowing his Word to come alive in my heart in a new way by allowing me to walk the paths of the Gospels. We had the chance to walk the Via Dolorosa, the way of the Cross. At the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu on Mount Zion, we entered into the events of Holy Thursday by praying in the underground caves where Jesus was held and abused by Caiaphas and his guards. At Calvary, when I was too overwhelmed to know what to do or say, God gave me the time and space to sit and listen to Him. And now, each time I open my Bible or listen to the readings at Mass, my experience of Scripture has been transformed by the gift of my time in Israel.

Church of St. Peter, Gallicantu // David Swenson

So whether you feel that your Lent was a rich time of spiritual growth, or if you fell off the bandwagon several times, do not worry. Jesus has risen from the dead, and never stops wanting you to grow closer to Him! I encourage you, much like you do in Lectio Divina, to just spend time with God and be open to whatever He has in store for you. God’s plan for my season of Lent this year was more incredible than anything I could have planned myself, and for that I am so grateful! As it is written in Constitution #119 of the Congregation of Holy Cross, “Resurrection for us is a daily event…We know that we walk by Easter’s first light, and it makes us long for its fullness.” I will be praying that you have a blessed Easter season and experience the joy of God’s daily Resurrection!

God’s Call to Prayer

Ben Swanson, Anchor Senior Intern 

I returned to campus after spring break with a sense that I had been gone for a very long time. I was on tour with the Glee Club and as we traveled through the American Southwest (enjoying every moment of it) I was left with very little time to pray. During the day we were either exploring a city or on the bus, and anyone who has been on such a bus for an extended period of time knows that it isn’t the best place for silent reflection or prayer. It is noisy and busy and exhausting. In the evening we would have a concert, visit with those who were hosting us, and then promptly collapse exhausted into sleep. Overall it was a week that did not lend itself to a consistent prayer life. And I felt it. When I returned I knew that I needed to pick up where I left off. I knew that I should go to Adoration in the CoMo chapel, or at least set aside some time to pray and center myself back into an awareness of God. The problem is that I really didn’t want to. I felt just a little bit lost and something kept convincing me to go do other things. This continued on for a week where some voice kept calling me to prayer but I kept myself away.

 

Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame

Eventually, I made my way into a chapel by overriding strong hesitation and forcing myself to make an effort. I sat down and began to pray. I knew that something was different. I felt foreign and distant from my prayer. It was like seeing a very old friend again and not knowing what to say because there is simply too much to say. I didn’t know whether I should apologize for my absence or be angry that God didn’t do more to pull me in sooner. It was in that chapel, in that moment of ambiguity in prayer, that I realized something remarkable. God didn’t feel distant from me. He felt as close as ever. I looked back across this week of hesitation and I realized that God had been pulling on my sleeve, flicking my ear, and reminding me constantly that I should be praying. At the time I thought it was just annoying. I was angry with God for not calling me back to prayer while at the same time I was annoyed that a little voice in my head wouldn’t let me just go my own way in peace. I didn’t realize until later that God was that little voice. I realized that I had been talking to God all week. I had been telling him: “I know that I should be praying, but just give me a day or two.” I asked God to wait for me, that I would be back soon.

Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame

God did wait for me. He was there waiting to hear everything I had to say or to sit with me in silence whenever I was ready. But God wasn’t going to just let me wallow until I happened to find my way back. He was constantly pulling and calling out to me. He told me time and time again that I would find joy in coming to Him. I couldn’t find my way back to prayer except through prayer. Only God could be the source of a relationship with God. I wasn’t going to find that through ignoring him. I have often had long periods of time where I cannot hear God or it seems as though God cannot hear me, and I know that I am not unique in this. In these moments we are filled with the temptation to run and hide. We think that wherever God is he doesn’t want to hear about our problems. He’s probably angry with us and we need to fix things before presenting ourselves before Him again. The beauty is that God, whether we feel close to Him or not, is always with us. He is always calling us to Himself. We hide ourselves from Him and dress Him up in all sorts of disguises so that we may ignore his call for a moment. But God does not ignore us, even for a moment. He hears us and sees us in every moment of our lives. He waits for us to hear His call so that He may welcome us with open arms into the joy of His love. In a little over a month I will be leaving Notre Dame and I know that I will encounter more “tour bus times”, those periods when prayer is neglected for a while. I know that I can take hope in the fact that God will always be calling me back to him and waiting for me with open arms.

I Don’t Know How Big a Mustard Tree Is

Thomas Wheeler, Anchor Senior Intern

“By this is my Father glorified, that you bear great fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8).

Evangelization is a word that a lot of Christians get super excited about. Spreading the gospel! That’s what Jesus wants me to do, and that’s what St. Paul did, right? Sign me right up for that! But what do we often think we would do to achieve this high aim of preaching the gospel to all the nations? We look to the great saints like John Paul II and Mother Teresa whom God has blessed us with in this generation, who look like superheroes of love in a postmodern and anti-religious world. We see some of our fantastic theology teachers here at Notre Dame who live out their faith and inspire us through their brilliant minds and lectures. We look back to our times at conferences and retreats, where the talks and sessions, combined with powerful experiences of prayer, fill us with the zeal to go forth and proclaim the gospel to all nations.

Here at Notre Dame, many people who dream of using their education and talents to make drastic impacts on our society, our nation, and the world. Studying with engineers, I run into a lot of people who want to help design more efficient and innovative structures, compounds, and methods within their respective fields. And yet, the majority of people do not end up producing “game-changing” technologies and “never before seen” machines that will live up the expectation of making the world a better place.

Within the realm of evangelization, I know I have definitely fallen into this temptation as well. I sometimes find myself desiring to be the new prophet to the nations that will bring the whole world to understand God’s love for them. I want to be the one to convert droves of high schoolers to Christ through my passionate talks and dulcet tones as a worship leader. I want to be the one who knows all the apologetic responses to the pagans and non-believers who do not see the God who sits right before their eyes. I want to be the one people know because of the great parish mission or retreat that I put on that caused them to drop their nets and surrender their life to Christ. I want to be the one who writes that great book on the spiritual life that people will continue to read until the Second Coming. I fall into thinking that evangelization is all about the big things: giving talks, fighting off false prophets, teaching classes, and writing books.

But looking at my life, I know that this is not even the norm for evangelization or how people come to know the gospel. Speakers, theology professors, and other Christian “celebrities” are all great people and have shaped my life. However, my faith did not sprout from a single prophetic message, but from discipleship.

In his book, Set All Afire, Louis deWohl depicts the life of St. Francis Xavier, including his time in university before his conversion. Francis and his college roommate, now St. Peter Faber, are described as typical party-goers, good at athletics, and thriving in the successes of their academic life. One day, they are forced to add another roommate to their living quarters: an older student who would later take the name of Ignatius (of Loyola). At first, Francis and Peter despise the pious Ignatius, who always seems to be at peace, no matter what sort of drama and stress their school-life is putting them through. However, eventually, the two of them begin to question Ignatius and have conversations with him about where his joy and peace comes from. Thus begins the relationship and discipleship through which Ignatius, over the course of many years, leads them to know Christ. Peter Faber later becomes the great Christian teacher and the first priest of the Society of Jesus; and Francis Xavier becomes the first Christian missionary to successfully bring the Gospel to East Asia, impacting countless lives.

Simple discipleship and relationship is the norm of evangelization, and Jesus even demonstrates this in the Gospels. He gives great sermons and heals many lives, but he spent even more time investing in his closest disciples, who would become the foundation for the Church he planned to build here on Earth. Jesus still works to spread his message through the people who have mentored us and invited us into discipleship. Through the Life Teen missionary that led my friends and I through Bible Study during my senior year of high school, Jesus showed himself to me in a simple relationship, but has profoundly worked in my heart to continue to lead others to Christ in the same way.

I am reminded of the parable of the mustard seed, which we have all heard and read so many times before:

“The kingdom of God… is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” (Mark 4:30-32).

It is easy to discard relational ministry and discipleship as something too simple to affect enough people to actually make an impact on the world around us. We would much rather seek our vocation in ways that directly impact large masses of people, but in fact, we can never know the gravity of leading a single person to Christ through relationship. Most people are called to married life, and even the conversion of a future father or mother impacts the entire line of their descendants, who will likely be raised in a household where faith and love of God comes first. Ignatius could not have known how the relationship he had with Francis Xavier could have born fruit in the conversion of entire islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. But Jesus knew the importance of spending time discipling the Apostles, teaching them not only by his words, but with his entire life. If we want to change the world and set it ablaze with the love of God, we must imitate Christ’s example and commit to a life of discipleship, both in following him, and in leading our friends to him.

The Tomb: Where Jesus isn’t.

Erica Pereira, Anchor Senior Intern

This spring break, I was lucky enough to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Campus Ministry. I was so excited for this trip because we were going to the place where Jesus was! Where he ate, walked, talked, died and rose. I went to the Holy Land expecting to grow in intimacy with Jesus. I certainly did, but not in the way that I expected.

At the end of our trip, we had the opportunity to participate in an all-night Vigil at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Holy Sepulcher is the church that contains both Calvary and the stone where Jesus was laid and rose. We celebrated Mass in preparation for our vigil and the priest helping to lead our pilgrimage reminded us in his homily that at the Holy Sepulcher we would be visiting the place where Jesus isn’t. I sat there for a minute to try and really understand these words. But wait; didn’t I fly thousands of miles to be closer to Jesus? To be in the place where he was?

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher / David Swenson

Once we arrived at the Holy Sepulcher, my friend Marissa and I decided to wait in line to see if we could enter the tomb. As we inched closer and closer to the small and low entrance to the tomb, my heart began to race as I approached the place where Jesus isn’t. We entered the small, dark space, and we were with the stone where Jesus was laid. Then I deeply understood. He isn’t here. He is alive! My heart was like fire burning within me as I was filled with the joy of the Resurrection. Seeing the empty tomb made the Resurrection even more of a reality, and my joy overflowed. I could hear the angels saying, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen!” (Luke 24:5).

I came to the Holy Land thinking that I would be moved by seeing the places that Jesus was and is. But the place that most struck me was where he isn’t: the empty tomb.

The Tomb / David Swenson

Since I saw where Jesus is not, I have a desire to see where he is. Throughout my pilgrimage, I continuously saw and continue to see where Jesus is. Jesus is in the multitudes of people that passed by us in the busy streets of Jerusalem. Jesus is in my fellow pilgrims who prayed alongside me. Jesus was in every Eucharist that I ate and every Blessed Sacrament chapel that I encountered. And he is there because of the empty tomb, because of the Resurrection.

I don’t have to go to the Holy Land to encounter Christ. I am already where he is: in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and among his people. At Mass, I receive the living Christ and he is alive in me. The life of each individual is witness to the Resurrection. We are to live as Christ lived: not in the tomb, but alive in him.

Jesus, I Trust in You

Bridgid Smith, Anchor Senior Intern

As an Arts and Letters major I take great delight in reading hundreds of pages by multiple authors that cover a variety of topics, finding the common threads in all of them, synthesizing the most important points and finally focusing in on crucial themes. Though it can be a somewhat taxing process – one that a person might be tempted to skirt by seeking summaries – it does involve an element of excitement and discovery when that “light bulb” moment comes and things just begin to make sense and fit together.

Carrying over this practice of finding common themes over to my life in relationship with Christ I’ve noticed that trust has been coming up over and over again. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I’m a second semester senior and really have no idea what I’m doing next year.  It’s comforting, I guess, to say “I trust that something will work out,” but stopping there would be selling trust much too short. The simple prayer, the mere five words Jesus, I trust in you have kept me rooted in faith despite all of the heartache, uncertainty, restlessness, and doubt that comes in college. Though sometimes I believed it and other times I struggled to do so, I’m learning more and more that cultivating trust in Jesus has impacted my time at Notre Dame more than I will probably ever know.

When I felt lonely and isolated and absolutely overwhelmed as a freshman who didn’t know anyone, I prayed Jesus, I trust in you. I trust that you have brought me to this place and you will not abandon me.

When I was rejected or things didn’t go according to my plans, I surrendered and said, Jesus, I trust in you. I trust that your plans are greater than my own.

When I felt heartache and hurt I turned to Jesus and cried, Jesus, I trust in you. I trust that You will bring healing and peace in your perfect time.

In schoolwork, in summer experiences, in community, in friendships, Jesus has asked me to trust in Him, to trust in His plan, to trust that He is who He says He is and works all things for my good (Romans 8:28).

And He has shown me that this trust, this hope in Him does not disappoint (Romans 5:5). He has opened windows when doors closed. He has led me to friends that make me more of who He created me to be. He has healed brokenness I never thought possible. He has helped me find a community I feel so blessed to be part of. Cultivating trust has not meant my life is somehow magically easy and smooth: I still have lonely moments; I feel uncertain; I definitely haven’t learned to avoid hurt or heartache.  And yet cultivating trust has transformed these things from being mere obstacles in faith to occasions for my faith to grow stronger. Taking trust in Jesus seriously has been one of the most painful things I have ever opened myself up to but it has also given rise to a peace and joy and confidence in knowing that I am loved, protected, and never left alone.

The theme of trust in my life is very much a daily endeavor, a work in a progress.  I must constantly remind myself to trust in Jesus. The following prayer has helped me to nourish this trust, to make it more and more a part of my life. I pray that in some way it might do the same for you.

 

The Litany of Trust

From the belief that I have to earn your love

Deliver me, Jesus

From the fear that I am unlovable

Deliver me, Jesus

From the false security that I have what it takes

Deliver me, Jesus

From the fear that trusting You will leave me destitute

Deliver me, Jesus

From all suspicion of Your words and promises

Deliver me, Jesus

From the rebellion against childlike dependency on You

Deliver me, Jesus

From refusals and reluctances in accepting Your Will

Deliver me, Jesus

From anxiety about the future

Deliver me, Jesus

From resentment or excessive preoccupation with the past

Deliver me, Jesus

From restless self-seeking in the present moment

Deliver me, Jesus

From disbelief in Your love and presence

Deliver me, Jesus

From the fear of being asked to give more than I have

Deliver me, Jesus

From the belief that my life has no meaning or worth

Deliver me, Jesus

From the fear of what love demands

Deliver me, Jesus

From discouragement

Deliver me, Jesus

That You are continually holding me, sustaining me, loving me

Jesus, I trust in you

That Your love goes deeper than my sins and failings, and transforms me

Jesus, I trust in you

That not knowing what tomorrow brings is an invitation to lean on You

Jesus, I trust in you

That You are with me in my suffering

Jesus, I trust in you

That my suffering, united to Your own, will bear fruit in this life and the next

Jesus, I trust in you

That You will not leave me orphan, that You are present in Your Church

Jesus, I trust in you

That Your plan is better that anything else

Jesus, I trust in you

That You always hear me and in your goodness always respond to me

Jesus, I trust in you

That You give me the grace to accept forgiveness and to forgive others

Jesus, I trust in you

That You give me all the strength I need for what is asked

Jesus, I trust in you

That my life is a gift

Jesus, I trust in you

That You will teach me to trust You

Jesus, I trust in you

That You are my Lord and my God

Jesus, I trust in you

That I am Your beloved one

Jesus, I trust in you. Amen.

~ Sr. Faustina Maria Pia, SV