Tag Archives: Joy

Living in Fear; Living in Joy

Nohemi Toledo, Senior Anchor Intern – Multicultural Ministry

This past winter break I saw eyes that beamed with fear, uncertainty, love, and joy as I encountered migrants on their journey. I couldn’t help but imagine how members of my own family reacted in situations such as this.

I was in Tucson, Arizona observing Operation Streamline. My heart was broken as I wondered what these people went through sitting in front of the judge. They left their families and most likely spent thousands of dollars just to be sent back to their home countries within a couple of days. Some traveled from Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico, and even Ecuador. Then I wondered why. What was the reason that they decided to come to the United States? It could have been for work, to help their families, or to flee from gangs and violence in those countries. Now they are here, in this courtroom, waiting in shackles with fear and sadness in their eyes to be taken back to their home countries.

The Arizona border

This was only my second day in Arizona and my heart was already broken into a million pieces.

I think about my family and how scared they were for more than twenty years waiting to apply for residency. I grew up in fear that the person on the other side of the door may take my parents away. I remember the fear of any encounter with law enforcement or waiting for my parents to pick me up from school and the possibility that they may not come. It took over 20 years for my parents to have some sort of ‘safety’ but even so, we still live in fear that it can be taken away any day.

Through this fear, the Lord allows us to encounter joy and love. Towards the end of my week in Arizona, the group I was with went to a clinic held in a high school gym where people gathered to receive legal advice. There were lawyers gathering information for cases, retired lawyers preparing paperwork, volunteers documenting stories, and my group listened and observed all that was happening.

I had the privilege to be able to translate for various people with different stories. The first person I translated for was almost done filling out his paperwork and just needed a couple more things. As I sat across the table from him, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated that in the end the judge is left with this important decision. This man was so happy and excited to finish his paperwork and go in front of a judge. He didn’t know what would happen, but he was living in the present. This man radiated joy.

Family joy

This fear never goes away but that didn’t stop my family from living in happiness and with joy. I’m grateful that we were able to come together as a family each night to enjoy a meal together. My siblings and I would have so much fun just being kids and being goofy with one another. I saw the joy my parents had knowing that their children were receiving excellent education and enjoying simple conversations with friends. Having moments of joy allowed for moments of peace.

As I returned to Notre Dame after winter break, my experience in Arizona sat really heavy on my heart. I wasn’t sure, and still not sure, what I can do moving forward other than to bring light to this issue. There is so much that is going on down by the border that a whole semester of learning about it still couldn’t compare to seeing it first-hand. I encourage you to look for yourself. Do some research and maybe even book a trip to help people who are dying every day. Understand both sides of the issue because it will surprise you as much as it surprised me.

I will continue to pray for the migrants; those who have crossed, those who are currently crossing, and those who plan to cross in the future. I ask that you pray for them, too.


When Joy Runs Dry

Nathan Miller, Senior Anchor Intern

“All you peoples, clap your hands; shout to God with joyful cries.”  Psalm 47:2

In my blog last semester, I reflected on the Litany of Humility prayer. In my blog this semester, God has given me a whole new life experience to understand humility…and right now, I can’t say I’m all too thrilled about it.

Just a few days before Christmas, I had surgery to repair my torn ACL (and meniscus, as I found out afterward). But this wasn’t a recent injury. I had torn it in the first couple weeks of fall semester playing football with my friends. If anyone asks though, just tell them I was wrestling a bloodthirsty bear while protecting a small child lost in the woods.

Successful surgery!

I celebrated the Christmas season with a big brace on my leg, using crutches to get everywhere. I needed help with simple things like getting dressed, showering, making food, and pretty much everything else that would normally require you to balance on both legs. Every task was a “big production” as I came to say, and my limited mobility kept me from getting out of the house very much. As someone who is used to providing for himself, I quickly grew frustrated with my temporary disability.

It is remarkable how quickly frustration can erode joy. On one hand, I had so many reasons to be thankful – the surgery was successful, I had adequate insurance, and my family and girlfriend went to great lengths to care for me and make me comfortable. Even more, I was still able to attend Christmas Mass and see my extended family as we celebrated the coming of Emmanuel. But yet, my frustrations mounted. Getting up at night to use the bathroom was a hobbling mess. Mom always offering 5 different ways to help when all I wanted was to rest. And probably above all, I felt incredibly lethargic and cooped up. My motivation to do things like reading books or study for my upcoming CPA exams was low, and even lower was my motivation to pray. You would think that having so much free time, especially over Christmas season, would have inspired me to pray. But I found many excuses: “I have to do my rehab exercises first” or “I need to take a nap first” or “now my family is home I should play a game with them.”

Unable to move normally. Frustrated with being taken care of all the time. Not taking time for prayer. I realized about one week after surgery that my supply of joy was running on fumes. How did I deteriorate so quickly? Of course, there is something to be said for coming off of major surgery and still being on strong pain meds, but I also had to find the wellspring of hope to replenish my joy.

Two things in particular helped me reclaim a spirit of joy amidst my temporary disability.

First, I needed to express gratitude, internally and externally, for the gracious help of my family, but in particular my mom. As we were driving back from visiting one of my relatives, she sat in the second row of the van with me and let me rest my leg on her lap (since I needed to keep it straight and that’s a difficult task in a vehicle). As my leg rested there, she silently started massaging my foot. In a few moments, I was unexpectedly overcome with a sincere feeling of gratefulness and humility. In that small moment, I saw how deeply she cared about me. For this time in my life, I once again needed to unabashedly rely on my mother’s love. Recognizing this brought me one step closer to joy. I allowed all the kindness of my loved ones to soak in as I embraced my limited capabilities. Gratitude is a wonderful medicine for grumpiness.

Second, I brought myself back to a routine of prayer. As I sipped my morning coffee, I sat by the window and started with Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. It has long been one of my favorite ways to pray because it makes me feel a deep connection with the universal church and puts words into prayer for a whole spectrum of human emotions. Even though it’s my favorite prayer, it was still difficult most mornings to start it. After about five minutes of praying, however, I felt my resistance soften and my mind open for God to enter. From there, I was able to use my own words to talk with God about how I was feeling – my frustrations and my desire for joy. He in turn comforted me with His steady peace and directed me to embrace gratitude. This conversational prayer helped me see God amidst my little suffering, but was only possible because I first entered into formal prayer. It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit works through our prayer, even when we feel we are at our weakest.

Joy is decidedly different from happiness. Happiness is fleeting, yet joy is sustaining. Even still, I found that joy can run dry, and it is in these times that we need to draw on the wellspring of love shown to us by our family, our friends, and above all, our Heavenly Father. Joy, invigorated by gratitude, is one of the marks of a Christian life. It is a mark I hope you will join me in striving for each day, on Our Lady’s campus and beyond.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”   Romans 15:13

Family Christmas 2017