I’m back. Back at Franciscan after a wild and wonderful adventure that took me all over Europe for a whole semester. And life hasn’t ceased to be adventurous since. It’s funny being back though, there’s a beautiful kind of fullness that I almost wasn’t expecting. I’m not sure what I was expecting it to be like after Austria, but still. Things have fallen back into step as if I was never gone. That’s the wonder of Franciscan though. It’s so much of a family here. You’re always home the moment you step back. And as much as I’ve changed and grown and been made new through my experiences last semester, this place remains a sturdy shelter for me to return to.
I’m so grateful for that. It has made returning such a joy. I came back to campus a bit early actually, to work on Orientation Team, helping to prepare everything to welcome all of the new freshmen this fall. And it was the best. It’s always wonderful to get to give back to this school that I love so much, and especially in a way that extends the spirit of Franciscan to the people who will continue to carry it on after I leave. It’s also just a crazy amount of fun working with so many of my friends, despite all the late nights and moderate chaos of working to plan and organize everything.
Another absolute joy of being back in Steubenville is reuniting with friends I’ve been apart from for so long. The friendships I’ve made in my time here are with some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met, and to be back with them once again is so good. Seeing friends on campus from afar, running towards each other and embracing, it’s the stuff of movies, really. Only with a lot more screaming and excitement. It’s especially wonderful to be back with my household sisters in Rosa Mystica. Besides being the source of endless laughter in my life, these are the women who have and continue to challenge me, calling me on to deeper virtue and a fuller commitment to Christ.
So, here I find myself. Back in Ohio, with so many wonderful friends and my beautiful sisters. Back in the steady and occasionally crazy pace of a student. So much goodness has already come from this Fall 2014 semester. It’s also overwhelming though. Beginning this year has a kind of finality to it, since this is my last at Franciscan. I seriously graduate in May, God willing. How is that even possible? It seems unreal, and massively intimidating to say the least. I’ve found myself facing a lot of fear as I consider the reality of graduation and the future. Even just considering the awesome weight that it is to be a Theology and Catechetics student here, the responsibility that accompanies that choice, is enough to make me quake in my boots at times. But this is where God has been entering most profoundly into my life so far this semester, speaking truth to me, and asking me to trust through all my fears and weaknesses. And it’s been beautiful.
For one of my Catechetics courses this semester, Catechetical Methods II, each student is assigned a day to open the class in prayer. When I led, my prayer reflected on this verse from Scripture,
“He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
This verse has remained in my heart for the past month, reaffirming in me that as overwhelmed as I may feel at times this semester, as much as I might feel inadequate or unable to accomplish what is before me, these are the very ways in which God will be most glorified in my life. Because it will be obvious that it is only through His power and gift that any and all goodness results. By offering my weakness and fears of inadequacy to Him, they are transformed and become not a lacking in me but a profound avenue of grace in my life. And for that, I’m am learning to be immensely grateful. And it’s helping be to be unafraid.
All of my travels so far have been enlightening, teaching me things about the world and myself, both of which I am so grateful for. And as much as what I’ve experienced so far has exceeded my expectations, I did set off on this trip to Austria prepared for adventure. I was kind of ready for it, or at least ready for the unknown that it was to be. But it’s what I wasn’t expecting, the hidden treasures of life in the Kartause, that have turned out to be some of the greatest gifts so far. That’s what I want to share with you today: the unexpected gifts that I have received already from the Franciscan Austria Program. And hopefully in so doing, I’ll be able to give you a little taste of what Austria’s like for me.