Category Archives: September 2018

We Influence

James Weitzel, Senior Anchor Intern – Retreats & Pilgrimages

We influence. This statement is realized once we start to take notice of how our actions impact those around us. Hopefully what I share will illustrate this point.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, I never really experienced snow growing up. One of the drawing factors for leaving sunny southern California for college was this strange new concept of seasons (and of course the new weather that came with it, and not to mention academics, etc.). In short, Notre Dame did not let me down. August brought all the green and humidity, there was an explosion of color in autumn, and after a long cold wait finally came that mythical frozen water from the sky in the winter. That first snow, of course, was amazing, but so was the second and third and so on. Not everyone shared in my enthusiasm… nevertheless, snow fascinated me, and the pain of the cold could not take away from the beauty of it. I more than happily volunteered to shovel the sidewalks outside the dorm on the weekend and to brush off the cars in the parking lot (I would only do half the car though…).

I know it is nowhere close to snowing as some days it is still near 85 degrees out, but sometimes it is helpful to frame the future unpleasantries before they happen.

All of this was merely setting up a snowy day in January: it was absolutely freezing, and the wind chill just made things colder. I was walking in (late) to my job at Campus Ministry as a student worker, and quite excitedly mentioned how beautiful it was outside to one of my bosses, Abby. I didn’t think anything of the brief encounter that happened as I scurried past her to the desk. The next day, I received a wholehearted thanks and explanation of how my simple statement of beauty along with my presence changed the whole outcome of her day. It turns out, as I was walking in, she was getting ready to head out and was very much dreading the walk to her car in heels (she forgot her snow boots) and the inevitable traffic that was to follow. My little comment of beauty made her slow down enough to see the beauty I saw, and brighten her day a bit. I didn’t realize my impact on people: my simple sharing of what was happening in my head actually had an impact on someone. This was never my intention. I was just excited that it was snowing.

James captures a snowy moment outside his hall.

We influence.

We are all called to be leaders, to ultimately be intentional with our words and actions: we have the power of influence. To borrow some language from the Constitutions of Holy Cross, being a leader can be as simple as having the competence to see, and the courage to act. This seeing and action takes some self-reflection though: we cannot say what’s on our hearts if we are too preoccupied with the difficulties ahead. The snow is absolutely beautiful, but that doesn’t mean we will always see its beauty. If we don’t take time for self-reflection and prayer, we won’t see the ways God is acting in our lives at the present: we won’t see God’s extraordinary works in what we have considered ordinary. We can’t do what we’re called to do if we don’t know what to do.

We influence. No one has figured out what God’s full plan is no matter how put together most people on this campus seem, I ask us to challenge ourselves. Not challenge ourselves as in “go out and make 10 new friends.” I’m challenging you to look inward: challenge what you think you know about yourself, to ask the deeper questions and seek the deeper answers. To not just recognize the beauty around us, but to share it. To not just think of ourselves, but to be aware of the influence we have on others. For not only do we influence, but we should be more open to receiving influence as well. Sometimes we need to let go of our pride a little bit (or a lot), so we can be open to listening to others, so we can grow from genuine encounter. We are called to be God’s hands and feet in this world, so, of course, God works through others, we just have to be present to hear it.

And don’t forget, snow is coming! 

The Word Became Flesh

Meghan Kozal, Senior Anchor Intern- Communications & Design

The second to last 3D foundations critique of the spring 2018 semester was wrapping up and while I should have been engaged in discussing my fellow classmates’ work I was instead sitting there really trying to puzzle out why in all my time of making art, both in high school and now as a visual communication design major, I had never made art that tied back to my faith.  Several classmates had made pieces discussing their faith and the challenges that come with it, which kick-started my reflection. In the end I realized that I had always felt as if there were ‘more important’ issues than faith that should be discussed in art such as promoting women’s rights, equal access to education, or greater cultural sensitivity and thus that’s what I latched onto.  I saw my faith and ministry as separate from the work I completed in my major and the path I wanted to take in the future in the art field. With all this in mind, I challenged myself to make my final piece related to my faith, while also retaining some of the influence of those other interests.

In ideating how exactly my faith could intersect my artistic creation, I somehow circled back to a documentary I had watched on Islamic Art.  I was inspired by a particular line that said in Islam the most important gift from God is His Word and thus text is one of the most prominent art forms in Islamic Art. I made the jump then to considering that for Christians God’s most precious gift is His Son, and thus figures are at the center of Christian imagery. Blending these ideas together, I thought of the beginning of John’s Gospel which synthesizes these two seemingly contradictory ideas into “In the beginning was the Word… and the Word was God… and the Word became flesh”.

Meghan’s artwork on display at ArtPrize.

Using these lines, parts of John 1:1 and John 1:14, as a starting point, I created three layers of Bible verses written in Arabic calligraphy inspired by the Dome of the Rock and the Hagia Sofia.  The verses mentioned from John’s Gospel are the first and second layers of Arabic text in the piece respectively. I explored to find more Biblical texts that discussed the Word and arrived on text from Luke (11:28) and James (1:22) from the New Testament and Deuteronomy (30:14) and Psalms (119:130) from the Old Testament in the final layer, which allowed the piece to also connect with the Jewish faith.  In creating this work I wanted to start a dialogue between the different major faith traditions in a way that looked at the similarities or the areas where our theology crossed over versus beginning at how they were different. In striving for this dialogue, I was able to retain my usual desire to tackle tough issues in my artistic creations in a way that prompts conversation among viewers, the artwork, and myself.

While the artwork was made to fulfill the needs of a class project, I wanted to do more with it than simply show it to my fellow classmates.  I, therefore, tried entering it into Grand Rapids ArtPrize, one of the most attended art events in the world. ArtPrize is an exhibition that takes over the entire city of Grand Rapids, MI with over 150 venues and over 1,000 artists and is one that I have gone to since I was young with my parents and grandparents.  To be exhibited in ArtPrize, a venue has to select your work, and I had the great fortune of being selected by the Monroe Community Church this year. On September 15, 2018, I officially became an ArtPrize artist as I hung my piece on the wall of the church, and I could not be happier. The show will run from September 19-October 7 and on September 30, my piece will also be the inspiration for the sermon at the church’s Sunday service.  

Meghan stands proud as she’s officially an ArtPrize artist.

What started as a class project with the vague idea of incorporating my faith has now become a piece that will fuel conversation among the hundreds of thousands of visitors to ArtPrize.  This has allowed me to begin seeing art and ministry in a whole new light and sparked the desire to continue creating art that is a catalyst for inter-faith dialogue.

For more on my piece and ArtPrize, visit

My time in Honduras: Encountering Holy and Humble Hearts

Megan Wilson, Senior Anchor Intern – Compass

The metal gate creaks in the same distinct way it always does as I step outside the towering fence and begin a walk that has become comfortingly familiar–the vast expanse of mountains and trees adorned by dozens of clouds in a clear blue sky to my left, and the barbed wire fence protecting my second grade classroom shaded by a gorgeous flowering tree to my right. I can still hear the sound of gravel crunching beneath my sandals along the path and feel the repetitive tap of my water bottle against my thigh as I walk up a small hill in front of the entrance to the nearby village church. I am welcomed by the rancid stench of a large pile of horse manure on the cement floor nestled alongside the wooden planks resting atop stacks of cinder blocks that serve as pews for the congregation. Large sheets of tin and a tarp serve as temporary roofing, and papel picado affixed to a white bed sheet hanging behind the wooden altar. The church itself looks and smells nothing like any church I had ever been in before coming to Honduras, but it is exactly in the humility, poverty, and simplicity that is so explicitly represented by the structure itself where I was able to encounter Christ in incredible ways this summer.

I spent my summer serving as a missionary at a children’s home and school in rural Honduras through the Center for Social Concerns’ (CSC) International Summer Service Learning Program (ISSLP). When explaining my experience of serving as a summer missionary in Honduras, I often find myself describing my experience as both the most difficult thing I’ve done in my entire life while also simultaneously the most wonderful and rewarding thing I have ever done. The hardest, most heartbreaking moments were always so full and abundantly anointed by the presence of Christ in that suffering, and I found myself time and time again surprised by joy and beauty when in my own weakness I was tempted to lose hope. I was constantly gifted with glimpses of God–in the children, in intentional conversations, in moments of learning, and in the natural beauty of sunsets and the sound of rolling ocean waves. My heart was brought closer to Christ’s suffering heart when hearing stories of great hardship and trial, or in the more taxing moments of living in community or in the detachment required to live out a radically simplistic lifestyle. Above all else, my daily experiences and encounters drew me closer to the humble heart of Christ, leading to a transformation within my own human heart.

A glimpse of God in the calming ocean waves at dawn after a challenging week.

Jesus humbled me to trust through the child-like hope of the smallest student attending the school where I taught classes, who couldn’t sleep at night because her bed was infested with biting ants. Jesus humbled me to trust through the judgment-free love extended by a 12-year-old to her absent mother, or from a pair of siblings to their negligent family. Jesus humbled me to trust in His divine plan and deliverance through the vocation story of a religious sister and through the examples of the seven long-term missionaries who had put their lives on hold to serve at the children’s home and give up all worldly comforts. Jesus humbled me to trust through the radical hospitality of members of the neighboring village who repeatedly opened their homes and what little they had to us with no hesitation.

Teaching second grade math, which became a daily practice of humility in the classroom during my time in Honduras.

The poverty and experiences of true suffering of each of these people, (and many more who I encountered and shared life with over the course of my 10 weeks abroad) allowed them to connect with Christ in a way I couldn’t, with true humility and through sharing in His humble state. These people know intimately the suffering and pain of the Cross, but they instead choose to live in trust and in the hope of the Resurrection and new life beyond the Crucifixion. My comfortable reality was effectively flipped–suddenly I was face to face with my own spiritual poverty of heart in the light of the material poverty right in front of me. In what ways was I the poorest one among us all?

When comparing my own life and spirituality to that of the people I met this summer, in many moments I came away feeling poor in new ways. These Honduran disciples have experienced so much loss, pain, and suffering on TOP of significant material poverty and still cling to God and to their faith above all else in their lives. I found the Church and the hope of Christ’s Resurrection incarnate in the stories and lives of the poor when I oftentimes could at first only find hopelessness. I was called deeper and deeper into trust through the example of humility and faith exhibited by so many people around me and in places where I always least expected to be drawn closer to Christ.

In Honduras, Jesus taught me to grow in humility and in appreciation of the virtue of humility through the power of encounter with others and in the example of the poor who I served and lived within Honduras. Jesus drew me even closer in love and understanding of His own holy and humble heart through the example of the humble hearts of the people I grew to love during my time as a missionary. In my experience, encountering humility, learning to trust amidst great uncertainty, and facing feelings of hopelessness can all be incredibly scary and uncomfortable things.

But, it’s important to recognize that at the same time, God is always gifting us with so much to learn and new ways to grow when faced with these feelings and difficulties. It is only through running towards these feelings and ultimately to Christ in the feelings and moments when we encounter difficulties which humble us (and not running away in fear) where we can allow Him to transform our hearts to become more like His. I’m grateful to have learned this summer that whether I’m serving as a missionary in Honduras, spending time at home in the Philadelphia suburbs, or attending classes and working in Campus Ministry in South Bend, the same God of the universe calls me to true humility and desires for all of us to know the poor and to know how we are poor and humble ourselves.