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. 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.
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?
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!”