Category Archives: February 2018

What a Ski Trip Taught me about Love

Danny Jasek, Senior Anchor Intern

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

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

Danny and his sister on the slopes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Jasek family game of “Catchphrase”

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

Praying through Panic

Emily Greentree, Senior Anchor Intern

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

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

Grotto candles refracted in a crystal ball.

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

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

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

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

Lent: A Season of Renewal

Rosemary Agwuncha, Senior Anchor Intern

Ahh, the unofficial “Catholic New Year” is upon us, friends! Lent has arrived and it’s time for us to enter into the purifying period, a.k.a. the “40-day Good Friday,” am I right? One of my professors joked that this is how we often view the season of Lent. He articulated, however, that Lent is meant to be a time of baptismal renewal and for reconciliation with God and others. Our death and resurrection in Christ is meant to be what our thoughts and hearts are fixed upon. The fruit of these meditations are then meant to manifest in our increased attention to prayer, fasting, and works of love (or almsgiving).

“But seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  – Matthew 6:33

Now that you have a small glimpse of what my major in Theology has been about…let’s think about what this actually means in real life. I’ll share a little story.

The beginning of my final semester at Notre Dame has been off to an interesting start. I’m caught in a space of tension. Though I want to relish every moment with all the incredible people I have met over the past 3.5 years, I am also preparing for the infamous medical school application process. Let me just say, it’s hard out here y’all. I feel like I have a to-do list that will never end and there will never be enough time in the day to get caught up. Dramatic? Maybe.

The past month has honestly felt like a blur of non-stop movement, and I’m still super behind on a number of things. Honestly speaking, on many days I have reached the point of tiredness that makes me become more emotional than usual, then I frantically agonize over every tiny decision, and negative self-talk becomes louder than any other thoughts in my mind. This is the absolute perfect recipe for premium level stress and anxiety, folks.

Walking by faith: “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” -Phil. 4:19

As a result of my current situation, I feel like I have taken many steps backward in my social life within the past four weeks. I sunk into the “you can only socialize on the weekend” and “if you’re not working or studying, you’re wasting time” mentality. I thought it would be so great to stay committed to “the grind” day in and day out, but it’s been extremely exhausting and not as fulfilling as I imagined.

I realized how much more draining my days have become in my attempts to avoid “unnecessary human interactions,” because as I sit before my work I start to realize how much I still crave these meaningful interactions. On top of that, my prayer has been less intentional and more “on-the-go.” As I toss up disjointed thoughts to God in bits and pieces, my heart is heavy with the burdens I haven’t truly laid before the feet of Jesus. During the past month, I have drastically narrowed my perspective on what is supposed to be meaningful in my life and what I make time for. Things obviously haven’t turned out as I intended them to so far.

The lack of community and intentionality that I imagined would spur me on towards greater productivity has, in fact, deprived me of so much of the energy that I need to persevere. Every bit of strength I have has been directed towards meeting deadlines, checking off items on an unending to-do list, and moving from one obligation to the next. Everything feels like a chore.

These pursuits of mine have honestly become idols and I have been sacrificing the most valuable possessions of time and my very self before them. I thought that I would receive blessings of joy and fulfillment for my earnest offerings, but I am realizing that these idols can’t offer me what I was seeking. They can’t reciprocate what I offer them or replenish me with anything meaningful. These idols will only continue to demand more of me and only be critical and denigrating when I don’t sacrifice enough for them. This then simply becomes a black hole of negativity that perpetuates self-violence.

Okay that was a bit bleak…but… devoid of an authentic relationship with God and with others, our lives don’t turn out to be as meaningful as we hope for them to be. I’m not advocating that we all become socialites who reject the notion that work or education has any value, but there’s a balance we should strive to maintain. Everything I do has to be rooted in love of God, neighbor, and self. I have to extend mercy towards myself and to others, just as God is unfailingly merciful towards me.

Yes, I will continue to strive to be diligent in order to accomplish my goals. However, the way I interact with God, myself, and others will definitely be more loving and more intentional because that’s how our lives ultimately find the most meaning. The Holy Trinity, in whose image we have been created, is love and relationship. We were made for relationship with God and with one another, this is something we cannot deny.

There are so many moments that the devil will try to steal my joy as well as my true identity in Christ away from me, but God is calling me in the season of Lent (and in every moment of every day) to remember that my hope and my joy are rooted in Him and Him alone.

I’m looking forward to this season of renewal and restoration of right relationship within the various dimensions of my life. Through greater attention to prayer, fasting from the things that are preventing my heart from loving God and others well, and intentional works of love, I will seek to entrust Jesus with more and more of my heart. All God wants is to love every part of my being – to fill every weak and broken place with His love and tender mercy. Jesus wants to restore the hope and joy that He won for me in His Resurrection.

God Doesn’t Ask for Perfection

Melissa Gutierrez Lopez, Senior Anchor Intern

Christmas break was interesting. Not because I had an interesting experience or did anything interesting but because I came to many realizations that helped prepare me for my final semester at Notre Dame.

Over break, I realized I did not want to continue living the way that I was. When I got home, I wasn’t feeling great for I felt like I didn’t end last semester on a high note. Feeling this way, I allowed myself to fall deeper into my own disappointment. I let my insecurities and self-doubt overwhelm me and cloud my judgment about my future. I grew worried about the many important decisions I needed to make such as which post-grad service applications to complete, how to progress with my thesis, what events to plan for my job, and then choose which classes I would continue with. Engulfed with my negativity and pessimism, I found myself unable to make those decisions and unable to picture what I would do after graduation. Because of these negative emotions, I did not have the energy to interact with people. So for most of break, I minimized my interactions with my family and wasted time by mindlessly scrolling on the internet. It was not until the end of break when I had a heart to heart with my mom and sister that I realize I needed to make a change. I could not keep living with so much negativity and hopelessness. I decided to change my mindset and attitude towards life, but most of all, change how I see myself.

I started slow. First, by watching inspiring videos and then listening to an audiobook that talked about embracing imperfection and vulnerability. This book also talked about the value of joy, gratitude and authenticity, and allowed me to realize I had developed habits of self-criticism. As a result, I made an effort to become self-aware and notice when I was being too critical of myself. I also created goals that I wanted to pursue: deepen my faith, be my own advocate, and be more intentional with my actions. Most importantly, I want to be more authentic and present with others.

In the midst of these efforts, I started to see how God was helping me through this. The author of the audiobook was Catholic, so it was nice to hear how these efforts for self-compassion, vulnerability, and authenticity were related to the Catholic faith. I cognitively knew that God did not want me to live life in despair or in anxiety. I also understood that the struggles I was experiencing were not meant to defeat me, like the Spanish saying “Dios aprieta pero no ahorca.” But, I wasn’t able to truly accept this. So this new understanding of vulnerability and embracing imperfection, as presented in the book, made me realize that I can live a content life with God by being happy with who I am. I understood that life will be hard at times, and that I will fail and experience disappointment but it will be okay. Why? Because I will remember my self-worth as a child of God and that regardless of what happens, I will be okay for as he told Isaiah, “Do not fear me: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Main Quad with snow

So, that is how I came back to start my new and last semester, with a different mindset of optimism, self-compassion, and an intention of becoming more authentic with those around me. And after awhile, I felt like I was on the right track.

Just last week I was reminded of how God works in incredible ways when I attended the Taste of Faith event. I wasn’t sure if I was going to attend, but decided last minute that I actually wanted to support my fellow interns and hear Fr. Pete speak. Imagine my surprise and joy to hear Fr. Pete talk about things that I’ve been reflecting on the past couple of weeks- accepting our imperfections, being vulnerable with people, and being authentic in your encounters. In hearing Fr. Pete, it felt like God was there with me, letting me know that I was on the right path and it felt comforting. I tried to live in that moment of inspiration and recommit myself to continue my efforts for self-improvement and being authentic. This is the way God intended me to live- to rejoice in his love and mercy, love him and those around me, and most importantly, to trust in him, as is written in Proverbs: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.”( Proverbs 3:5-6)

As my final semester progresses, I want to maintain this mindset of trust in God and in myself. I want to be intentional with my actions and be my authentic self with those around me. After reflecting on how I want to spend my last semester at Notre Dame, I feel that it would be great to spend it open to vulnerability, self-acceptance, and authentic relationships. I can’t imagine a better way to finish my time here at ND and I’d invite my fellow seniors to do the same.

When I become too worried about my imperfections, I return to one of my favorite prayers, the Serenity Prayer, and remind myself that I am not called to be perfect, but authentic.

Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.