“Fullness of life at the Kartause certainly centers around the Franciscan University student body,” says Tom Wolter, director of the Austrian Program. “But in the summer, this is when we really start focusing on the renovations, the improvements, and looking into different projects to bring in new life.”
The Nativity scene is a very important Christmas tradition in my family. We assemble one of our sets (we have several) in the living room, constructing a full backdrop for it in a little nook under a prayer table. Fabric draped over boxes become hills, and pine tree trimmings become trees.
The smoky scent of a wood fire drifts up and through the open-air walkways of the Kartause, mingling with puffs of mint, eucalyptus, and clove billowing up from a vendor’s essential oil diffuser. Both warm smells are sliced by the cold.
As I look up at the mountain, my legs heavy, my face cold, I realize my hike is also a time of waiting. How much longer? Where is the summit? When can I sit down, out of the cold, and change my socks? As much as I want a sign around each corner or ridge telling me where to turn, I have to walk on, confident the summit is ahead.
Mother Teresa is a favorite saint for many young Catholics, myself included. She moved mountains with her quiet, steady, and loving presence. She answered a call that was extremely difficult, trusting in God even when she falt utterly abandoned and alone. And this great saint, a leader of service and love, a spiritual giant among mankind, started simple.
Standing in the middle of the hallway of Franciscan University’s academic building, Egan Hall, I found myself with eyes closed, hands folded, and praying with a complete stranger. Two of my household sisters were next to me, but I still couldn’t get past the fact that it was normal to pray in public with someone I didn’t know.
Here at Franciscan University, we have a unique system called “Households.” Commonly explained as a “Catholic fraternity,” these small groups of men or women are united by more than just a banner, color, or t-shirt. Households are families.
Sometimes it seems that the March for Life is the Catholic/Pro-Life thing to do mid-January. We make our signs, try to sleep on a bus, stand for a few hours in the cold, catch up with old friends, shuffle along Constitution Avenue, say a rosary, pack up our things, and leave.
Most students returning from Austria will tell you similar things: “It was a great semester.” “It feels so weird being back.” “I’m still processing.” It was no different for me. As soon as I was home and waking up in my bed, the whole experience felt like a dream. Had I even left?
Even though I grew up in Steubenville and visited Franciscan frequently, I don’t have any vivid memories of Father Michael Scanlan. But he was always there, usually as one of the many priests at the altar during mass at Christ the King or in the Field House for Household Life.