Where is the beauty? Where is the beauty in the all-nighters and the papers and the meetings and the job-searching and the stress that seem to have become the all too typical aspects of my life as of late? I’d been having a hard time finding it, to be honest. This semester has continued at a rapid pace, feeling more like a string of project after project than anything else. It’s been a bit exhausting. It even just sounds exhausting re-reading it typed out in this blog post. It doesn’t really sound beautiful. Right?
That’s basically the way I’d been approaching it, at least. With always one more thing to do next on my list, I had fallen into this half-tired and often distracted complacency with everything. Of course though, our unceasingly good Lord is too relentless to have allowed me to remain in that mindset for long. A few weeks ago, I went on the “Born of the Spirit” retreat, a retreat offered through the University each semester as a part of the Life in the Spirit ministry on campus. It’s a way to learn more about, and enter more fully into the charismatic movement within the Church. And ultimately, the weekend was just that. Learning so much, and truly encountering the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s funny, because I just sort of randomly decided to sign up to go on the retreat, without giving it too much thought. But it became a weekend for me that reignited my zeal, that reminded me, through an encounter with the one who is Beauty, how to find beauty in all things.
At the house that some of my household sisters live in off-campus, they post beautiful little inspirational quotes all around. The one pinned onto their mirror by the front door says this, “Beauty gives man a healthy shock, it wrenches him away from resignation and from being content with the humdrum. It even makes him suffer, but in doing so it reawakens him, giving him wings.” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said that in 2009 during his meeting with artists. Without beauty, we become inclined to close in on ourselves and not emboldened to pursue greatness. We blur our vision to the profound way that God is working in our life because it doesn’t seem beautiful enough for Him to be present there. That’s where I had gotten myself stuck, somehow. But in that retreat weekend, in the praise and worship and the Masses and the conversation and even just the silence, God pulled me out of myself. Out of the self-interested pattern that wasn’t letting Him in very much, and wasn’t all that capable of being beautiful. I had forgotten just how much I love what I’m studying, and where I am, and all of the people around me. I forgot how it was all such a gift. Being reminded, I saw the beauty again.
I realized that the beauty is found in our recognition that God intends and has the power to use every intimate piece of what we do for His glory, if we allow Him to. And so even though I continue to go to all my usual classes, do all my usual work, and often bear the senior year burden of stress and busyness, it’s a lot more beautiful than I realized before. The one who is the author of beauty offers us a life filled with it, we just have to be, as the Pope Emeritus says, reawakened to it.
On another note, with all this talk of beauty, it seems like the perfect time to share the exciting and beautiful news that I’ll be going to Belize in Central America on one of our “Missions of Peace” mission trips this Spring break, to minister to the teens down there, teaching them about theology of the body alongside a bunch of other students. I’m so excited. Please pray for me, and the whole mission team! That we remain attentive to the beauty of our lives, the gifts that they are, so that we can share those gifts with everyone we will meet in Belize.
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.