It’s almost time to be heading home for Thanksgiving break. That is just so crazy. I think I’ve mentioned in all of my blog posts so far this semester how fast it feels like time is passing these days, and it continues to press on at an unnatural rate. But life is good! Even with all the craziness. As I begin to approach these final weeks of the fall semester, and it seems like there’s so much to do and finish before finals, I’ve been consoled by the words of St. Francis de Sales. I found these particular words of comfort from him while I was sitting in the Portiuncula Chapel during my 1:30 a.m. holy hour, which has become quite the endeavor to run to lately all the way from my dorm during the cold early morning hours. But that place is such a blessing to have on campus. The presence of the Lord in the Eucharist available to be with and adore at any time brings a relieving kind of peace to campus, one that I’ve found myself and so many others returning to again and again during our time here.
Sitting and praying there, and feeling a little bit sleepy, I opened up a little booklet I have of St. Francis de Sales’ Golden Counsels. He speaks about peace and courage on the very first pages, and I read these words,
“Do not examine whether what you do is little or much, if it is not sin, and if in good faith you have the will, do all for God. As much as you can, do perfectly that which you do. But when it is done, do not think any more about it; think of what is to be done next. Walk very simply with the Cross of Our Lord, and do not torment your mind.”
I’ve written earlier this semester about feeling overwhelmed at times, discouraged, and just nervous about the future. But these words give such plain direction: walk simply. It doesn’t mean that the walk itself is a simple journey, just that the process is clear and possible with Christ. It can be easy, especially as a student, to get in your own head about how much you’re doing and accomplishing – academically, spiritually, personally. It is so easy for me to cast a ‘to-do’ list mentality over my entire life, but that isn’t what God wants for us! And it isn’t what He asks of us. These few sentences of St. Francis de Sales have reminded me to live in the present moment, not caught up in the future or the past. Not worried about what I have done or what is yet to do, just trusting in God and being where He places me.
And what a wonderful place that continues to be. My classes this semester have been so awesome. Challenging, but so exciting. Taking Theology and Catechetics classes from professors who are such authentic witnesses of what they teach and are so radically available to you is a treasure. From working on class projects and papers, to playing on my household’s intramural volleyball team (which has turned out to be so fun, despite the fact that I’ve never played before in my life), to serving the Steubenville community with my household sisters during our group service project, to just spending time on Sundays having brunch and enjoying company with friends at my household sisters’ off campus house – being truly present in those moments, that is how to live simply. It is not being burdened by the many other things of life, but doing what God asks of you in the moment and embracing the joy of that, letting go of stress and choosing peace.
As the days quickly move on and the semester comes to a close, I want nothing more than to live those words of Francis de Sales, walking simply the steps before me and enjoying every one.
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.