The above photo depicts what I woke up to nearly every morning for the past four years. That’s the St. Francis Residence Hall chapel, a place where my heart was slowly but radically transformed the past four years through spending time “just being” with the Lord without an agenda, through diligent and persistent meditation on the Word of God, and his movement in my heart and life. Although a lot of those hours were quality one-on-one time with the Lord, I’ll never forget all the times my Household brothers and I would roll out of bed at the bright and early hour (for a college student!) of 7:15 a.m. and start our day together in prayer. What a gift to have had such an incredible and supportive community, one that really pushed me to become who I am today. Thankfully, having just graduated I can say that I took full advantage of the opportunity that the gift of households offers the Franciscan student body.
Sure, I’ll remember those endless hours studying for Cell Physiology, those long nights coming to understand Organic Chemistry, and all the time I took applying what I learned from Dr. Rohde by synthesizing novel small molecules in pursuit of a new treatment for drug-resistant tuberculosis… but what will I remember and cherish the most? I’ll remember my relationships that I have had with some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met in my life… my friends, my Household, my professors, and their families. I am going to miss Franciscan, and I’m so thankful they’ve put me in a position to have a lot of options professionally. However, before I step into my 30-40 year carreer, my next step is to take a temporary break from science and do a bit of a 180—I am going to become a missionary that speaks about sexual integrity with The Culture Project.
I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to come to Franciscan University, not because the ground is sacred or something—believe me, the temptations, the distractions, whatever, they’re all here too… the difference is that you’re surrounded by people who are of a like mind and heart. You’re surrounded by people who are all struggling but are striving… they want to rise above the mediocrity, become great, and recognize that in order for that to happen, you must stop looking to yourself, let go of your security a bit, and instead go to Someone bigger than you that has promised faithfulness. The people that Franciscan attracts are special—they know something, and they want to know it more deeply. This makes the environment incredibly rich but also rare, and you cannot help but be transformed if you invest yourself in the opportunity in front of you. But what do I mean by “transform”? For me, it meant being stripped of all the things that kept me from being my true self. It meant a slow process of self discovery that I am unashamed to admit was filled with more tears but also more laughs than I’ve ever had in my life. It has been an incredibly human experience. I have never been happier and filled with more peace in my life. Granted, I just got into a bit of a serious fender bender on Monday, so I’m not saying life’s quarrels just stop because you know God—I’m saying that I have peace and confidence in the midst of the chaos, and that is a gift.
Franciscan has opened my eyes to what it means to be human and what it means to love… they’ve set me up on a trajectory, that if I choose to keep following it, will undoubtedly set the world on fire. I really believe that. It’s been what’s happened over and over the past four years, and with increasing intensity. It’s also what I’ve seen in other people’s lives. People are starving, absolutely starving, for the truth I’ve come to know. Franciscan just helped me discover it, and for that I am thankful. I am so pumped to share this truth with my fellow brothers and sisters with The Culture Project.
This is my last blog post, and I leave you with a quote by C.S. Lewis that reflects some of the thoughts I’ve had recently on not being afraid to invest in people, regardless of what they may initially appear to offer you. It is opening my eyes to the people in front of me where I’ve experienced and had some of the deepest and authentic friendships I’ve ever had in my life. I believe it is in these friendships—these companions to join you in the journey we call our lives—that one finds the human fulfillment we so deeply long for. In order to have this depth, though, it comes with a price and a risk. You cannot invest—you cannot love—without making yourself vulnerable:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” –C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
verso l’alto! BE NOT AFRAID!
My name is Matt Stewart and I’m a chemistry student. I’m excited to be a student blogger representing the sciences at Franciscan University of Steubenville for this next academic year. Franciscan has provided some pretty incredible opportunities for me the past couple years. I am excited to see what God does with our work, and I look forward to sharing more and keeping you updated.