Lenten practices, tonight: 1) Stations of the Cross, 5:30 pm, and 2) Eucharistic Adoration, 6-7 pm, Newman Center chapel.
At the end of our spring break trip last week, I asked the group for feedback so we can assess our annual spring break service trip. One freshman student took this seriously and wrote an absolutely beautiful reflection about our week together. Below are excerpts from it. We go to South Carolina every year to perform service to those in need, but other fruits are produced for our group and our ministry. One fruit is the bonding of students in friendship that will last their remaining time at GW and the Newman Center. Another positive result is a deeper experience of faith that many students who come on the trip might not expect. It's not a retreat, but for some, there are retreat-like moments.
This student wrote about a powerful spiritual experience on the first night of the trip. How ironic that it was involving the ocean; the student pointed out at the end of the Tuesday discussion that the quote from Peter Kreeft (see Wednesday's post) was about an atheist at the ocean...! God is that cool.
Also, the student writes about praying throughout the day. "Praying three times a day" refers to the times when we prayed the Angelus on the trip. As a Church, we pray this beautiful prayer to remember the Incarnation, today's feast - when God became man. This is a great prayer for all GW Catholics to pray. The Church prays it at sunrise (6 am), midday (12 noon), and sunset (6 pm). GW Catholics can click on today's title for a link to a iPhone Angelus app or simply google "Angelus prayer" to learn it.
"Saturday night was really magical, in a way. For as long as I can remember, I have not been able to grasp the idea of Heaven. When I was as young as six or seven, I remember jumping out of bed at night, going downstairs to my dad and asking him about Heaven. I’d ask him how we know it’s there, how something can possibly last forever, and what heaven looks like. As the great father that he is, Dad did his best to try to explain it to me. Some of it, though, was beyond his ability to explain.
In recent time, especially over the past few years, I’ve been doubting that heaven even exists at all. It is too large of a concept. Something can’t last forever. Nothing can last forever. There has to be an end at some point. Sometimes I even thought that maybe things are cyclical so that they are beginning and ending all the time, but keeping constant. In other words, I was thinking of reincarnation as a possibility. And when I would think that maybe heaven does not exist, I would start shaking and feel the need to shout or make other loud noise. When I’d hit this point while daydreaming in class, I’d cover it up with a loud cough. Once I even had to walk out of the classroom. I hit a point where there was no heaven. It was impossible. And so at some point, I would be on my death bed and then be gone. I’d turn to dust. No, there was no heaven. Forever is impossible.
On Saturday night, upon arriving, we all traveled to the beach in Isle of Palms. My schoolwork was left in my dorm, as was my lap top. All my worries were left behind. It was warm out, and I was sitting barefoot in the sand surrounded by my new friends For the first time in what seemed like forever, I could take a deep breath of relaxation.
I took a good look around. I looked at the beautiful people around me, including my best friend. I looked down the length of the beach. I looked out at the dark water that stretched beyond my sight. I looked up at the star-filled night sky that I had been missing so much. I looked at the bright moon. I was overwhelmed by a feeling of joy as I thought, 'None of this is possible.'
People should not be this beautiful. Water should not be able to sit in such a large volume. The stars, the moon, and the sun – these GIANT chunks of the universe, are literally hanging in place perfectly. How could that ever be possible?
Indeed, it seemed that none of it could be possible. Thus, all of it is possible. I thought, 'If all this is possible, why can’t forever?'. I repeated the thought about ten times in my head, and was overcome with an immense feeling of peace. That peace still has not really left me...
I got back to my room at around 11:00 Saturday night. Feeling refreshed and renewed, I put my stuff down and sat on my bed. I glanced over at the corner. My trash bin was overflowing. It reminded me that I picked up much of the trash in my life and handed it off to Jesus in the past week, and reminded me that this was the beginning of my work, not the end."