for the sake of sanity, prayer

January 31, 2012

One of the little blessings I’ve had throughout my life is that I’ve always gone to school with a chapel nearby.

At St. Philomena Elementary, I always liked to visit the Blessed Sacrament across the street for a couple of minutes after school.  At Loyola High School, I attended a short 20-minute mass offered everyday before class.  And at Notre Dame, I’m supremely blessed — everyone is — to have a chapel in the dorm.  (And I’m even more blessed that my dorm is one of the few on campus that celebrates mass in an orthodox fashion).

Especially in my freshman year, Little Flower Chapel in Morrissey was my safe haven — a place that offered stability and calm, where I could relax, think, and know that God was listening.  And when life got busy after freshman year — well, at least I had the Grotto, the place from which I believe grace flows most on campus.  With how crazy life gets at Notre Dame sometimes, I seriously believe that it’s the Grotto that kept me sane.  It was the Grotto that gave me perspective.  It was the Grotto where I was reassured that our Lady and our Lord are watching over everyone who walks the grounds of Notre Dame.

If there’s one place I miss most while I’m in Rome, it’s the Grotto.  I also miss daily mass, and I miss simply having a place where I can sit down, unwind, and reflect.  Maybe that’s why I’ve been a tad bewildered these days and why I’ve been getting left behind…I don’t take time to thank God and put things into perspective anymore, so I’m living life wandering aimlessly about, trying to find direction that only daily prayer and reflection can offer.

I discovered that there’s a chapel just on the corner of my program’s building here in Rome that offers daily mass at 6:30pm every night.  I think it’s time I start going.


To close, some words on the Grotto from Tom Dooley, engraved on the hearts of every Notre Dame student:

But just now. . . and just so many times, how I long for the Grotto. Away from the Grotto Dooley just prays. But at the Grotto, especially now when there must be snow everywhere and the lake is ice glass and that triangular fountain on the left is frozen solid and all the priests are bundled in their too-large too-long old black coats and the students wear snow boots. . . . if I could go to the Grotto now then I think I could sing inside. I could be full of faith and poetry and loveliness and know more beauty, tenderness and compassion. . . .


The Self-Sacrificial Nature of Being Catholic

November 14, 2011

People have told me before that I’m one of the happiest kids they know:  I get excited easily and love to share that excitement with others; to them, I just seem to have a profound joy for life.

Which is weird because, to be honest, I don’t think I focus on being happy at all.  What defines me, I think, is that I really love to make other people happy.  Not in the cheap sense.  I don’t lie, for example, to make people feel good about themselves, and I won’t go out of my way to bring a temporary happiness or, worse, an illusion of happiness.

But I like to help others find meaning in life.  I don’t mean this in a cocky or pretentious way; I’m not saying I have divine knowledge or inspiration.  But I do like to make people feel special…I like playing a part in helping them find their place in the world.  Some of the most meaningful moments for me is when I talk to friends about finding direction — whether it be deciding a major, or how to approach relationships, or how to live life to the benefit of others.  Equally as meaningful for me, though, is simply having a short conversation with someone I don’t know well — showing him or her that I care.

I love to help people realize that they have a place in the world, that there’s a higher purpose in life, and that God’s always there for them.  Because ultimately, I think that’s what makes people happy.  And when I focus on other people’s happiness, I often find that I myself am happy.

I’m writing this post now because I’ve been focusing a lot on my own happiness recently.  I keep asking myself, “What do I want?”  and “What can I do to get what I want?”  But in doing so, I find myself dissatisfied, uncomfortable, and, yes, unhappy.  And it makes me feel wholly out of character.  When I’m focusing on me, I am no longer me.

All this stems from my Catholic values.  The nature of being Catholic, I think, is a willingness to give oneself to others.  The Catholic mission is dedicating yourself to God and bringing God to those around you.  When we focus on that — when we focus on bringing to others the Happiness that is God — we ourselves will be happy.  Because we will be doing what God made us to do.

“I think you can’t really be happy, if you are just trying to be happy. The key to happiness is to dedicate yourself to something greater than yourself, and to find a cause that is worthy of all your devotion.” (Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ)

Turn Tomorrow into a Moment you Treasure

November 9, 2011

One of the things I love most about Catholicism is that we’re taught to appreciate and make use of the gifts God gives us. One of those gifts is life with all its small pleasures.

Other religious philosophies tell us to shun life’s pleasures, while still others teach us that living in the moment is the highest good. But Catholicism — as it often does — takes a “both-and” approach. We realize that our final goal is union with God in heaven and that nothing on earth can ever compare to that. But we also realize that God gave us the gift of life. We should enjoy it, because the small pleasures in life very often help us to understand the nature of God’s goodness. We should also use life to share God’s goodness with others.

Don’t waste life away. Turn tomorrow into a moment you treasure. Fall in love, help a friend, chase a dream, make memories. Because life is one of the greatest gifts God has given us.