Joe Tenaglia, Senior Anchor Intern
“When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” – G.K. Chesterton
The last month of my senior year seems like the perfect moment to reflect on the people and experiences that have shaped my time on Our Lady’s campus. Especially in light of uncertainty about what comes next, it is comforting to look back on the moments of peace and joy that have marked my past four years.
In this process of reflection, I can’t help but return to the people who have shaped my experience the most by making it possible: the people who have helped me get here and have been with me through all of my ups and downs. Of course, I am talking about my parents.
Simply put, I would not be the person I am and I would not be at Notre Dame if it weren’t for my parents. From a purely rational standpoint, this is obvious. In the context of our modern society, which values individualism and seems to preach that we belong to no one but ourselves, it might just be a radical statement of gratitude and love. We know that our parents are the most important people in our lives, but how often do we actually acknowledge them as such? How often do we adopt a posture of gratitude to those who have sacrificed and suffered for us to flourish? I know that I don’t do it enough. So allow me please to use this space to do so.
My parents, Maura and Dan, are and always will be the most important people in my life. They not only gave life to me, but have also paved the path for me to not just exist, but to prosper. My parents, both being devout Catholics, made the all-important decision to bring me into the Church. They proudly walked into the church at my baptism to give me over to God; to declare that I do not belong to them, but to the one who is Father of all. This act of submission, humility, and self-sacrificial love set the tone for the way my parents would raise me.
From birth, my parents took me, along with my older brother Sean, to mass every weekend, instilling in me the importance of relying on God to weather any storm that might blow my way. They helped give my faith space to grow by making the sacrifice to send me to Catholic school: a sacrifice they continued to make in sending me to a Catholic high school, and again in sending me here to Notre Dame.
As I look back on my educational career in these places, I am filled with gratitude to all of my teachers who have helped me get to where I am now. I have been blessed with a number of wonderfully committed teachers, but none have taught me more than my first and greatest teachers: mom and dad.
At each step along my life, my parents have served as beautiful examples of how to live in the light of God’s love, trusting in Him through hardships and giving praise to Him for countless blessings. And all the while, they have poured out more love from their hearts than I thought was possible.
My parents have taught me about God and about how to be a person of faith by living with God at the forefront. They have taught me what love is by showing it to me every single day of my life. They have taught me how to forgive by putting up with me and all my failings. If I continued, I don’t know how long the final list would be. These will suffice though to show that despite all of the things I have learned in classrooms over the years, all of the most important things that I’ve learned in life, I have learned from my parents.
It is common for children to chafe against schoolwork by asking what good it will serve in real life. This has never been a problem when it comes to my parents’ lessons. I’ve never had to parse out what is important to remember. All that my parents have ever taught me has applied to my life. To rephrase it sightly, my parents have taught me how to live. And I am far from done learning.
While my time in formal classrooms is coming to a close, my education will continue. As I alluded to earlier, I still do not know what I will be doing after graduation. It is an unnerving feeling to live with that uncertainty, but at least I know there is one thing – or better put, two people – that I can rely on. I plan to move back home with my parents, and honestly, I couldn’t be more excited. I have so much still to learn, and while our modern world might look at moving back in with your parents as a step back, I see it as a step forward in my continuing education of life. What better way could there be to grow into adulthood?
The Book of Proverbs tells us that parents are “a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck” (Proverbs 1:8). For most of my life, I haven’t necessarily taken this to heart. I have taken my parents for granted again and again, and yet they still pour out all of their love for me. I can never thank them enough for all that they have done and continue to do for me. It is my sincerest hope, however, to offer all the gratitude that I can to these two remarkable people. They are the manifestation of the living God to me, and the more I know of and from them, the more I know of Him. May I never stop learning.