Today I will be headed to St. Thomas' retreat center at the Gainey Conference Center for a Campus Ministry-sponsored Senior Retreat. It is an overnight retreat that will last through tomorrow afternoon. Although I am not exactly sure of what the retreat will include, I am hoping for enjoyable, shared meals with friends (Gainey has outstanding food), some time for reflection on the Lord's proddings in my life and relaxation, and some words of wisdom to take with me for the remainder of the semester. These are my expectations, so we'll see how it goes.
Anyways, so now I am thinking about life as a Senior and I want to reflect a little bit on some "big picture" lessons I have learned about myself and about life in general throughout my 4 years in college.
1. Relationships are critical and can never be understated. I have been blessed with many wonderful friends and as the cliche goes, to make a friend, one must be a friend. And truly, a person is fortunate to have a good 4-5 people that truly "get" you. Although I haven't always been the perfect friend, I have had friends who have stuck with me regardless, offering their love, support, and kindness. This includes high school and college friends alike. I have found that friendships that have developed based on shared faith and shared experiences tend to be the ones that stay the strongest over time. I love a good, deep conversation, and can rely on my friends to help me when I need encouragement and offer the same when they are in need.
2. Romanticizing the events of life really sets one up for heart break. In everything, that is. I was just chatting with a friend of mine about this the other day. Throughout college, I have found myself setting expectations so high that when the event or experience actually occurred I found myself let down. It still happens all the time! I get ready to go to the library (which is beautiful and highly romantic by the way), thinking that I will be having academic ecstasy by candlelight, but when I pull my books and notebooks out and pen goes to paper, I suddenly wish I was anywhere but there. On the other hand, there is one thing in life that can never be "romanticized" enough, and that is the Mercy of God. God will always surpass our expectations because we can not (in this world anyways) understand the fullness of His goodness and His love for us. Each day, I try to focus on the beauty that I find in the Lord's work so that I can escape the "romanticism" that I crave in other things. This is an especially easy temptation to fall into for us ladies, so the sooner we face the grittiness of human life (which has been affected by the Fall), the better for our hearts so that they can heal, mend, and be transformed more fully into the Body of Christ.
3. It doesn't matter what you major in, but rather how you study and what you learn. I love hearing about all the different classes that different friends are taking. And yes, there are several classes that I would have LOVED to take during my time here. However, there is only so much time, and I am so glad to have learned what I did. I encourage you to study what interests you, and explore. I think my favorite classes have surprised me, shocked me, and opened my mind to a new perspective I had not previously considered. Yes, I studied Poli Sci, Catholic Studies, and Spanish....but I loved my Geology class, thoroughly enjoyed my freshman English class and am so glad to have taken an Acting class on the voice and vocal techniques. How cool is it that St. Thomas allows for such a breadth of topics and courses.
4. Keeping your family in the loop is important. As an out-of-state student (my home is 11 hours away!) it would have been easy to avoid conversation with my family. However, the times that I did that, I found that it was so hard to strike up a conversation naturally because of all the events that had passed since the last conversation. I love talking to my parents, brother, and my aunts because it makes us feel closer despite the distance. Being in a long-distance relationship (and now engagement), I have realized the importance of phone calls, letters, Skype and now try to incorporate these means into the ways I communicate with my family as well.
5. Spend time discerning your vocation. At college, you are surrounded by people who are figuring out what it is God is calling them to do. Whether it is a Vocation to the priesthood (my school has 15o undergrad seminarians- woah! Talk about witnesses for Christ), couples dating to discern marriage, gals discerning lives as Sisters, people considering single, consecrated lives but in active lay roles, take the time to talk to people and ask where their hearts find rest. There are so many good mentors around, especially among the faculty and staff members. Although it is also important to discern the vocation or ministry that we are called to in work, that ought to accompany prayers reflecting upon our personal vocations. I posted on my engagement story, but perhaps I will dedicate an upcoming blog post to my vocation story to marriage with Bill. Stay tuned...
6. Pray, Study, and Play! I heard this motto from a seminarian friend of mine who was from Kansas. He told me that it was importance to do all of these three things, in that particular order.
Pray: Develop your prayer life! Spend time in front of Jesus thanking, asking, and just in silence. Pray with others, pray by yourself, receive the sacraments. All of it is so important.
Study: Don't forget that our vocation right now is as students...commit time to your academics and don't take on a course load that you cannot handle.
Play: Work out, play games, enjoy the company of friends. Discover what activities challenge you and provide relaxation. I am thankful for the Rock Climbing Club, Volunteers in Action, and the Signature, among other things that give me healthy outlets of fun and leisure.
7. Get outside the bubble. No matter where you may attend/have attended college, it is no doubt a bubble. I would encourage you to spend time serving/ministering in some capacity during your years of school. Even baby-sitting or attending a parish that has children/families will help give you some perspective. Colleges can be rather isolating, as we are with people are own age (and a small number of professors) day in and day out. It is important to remember that this is not "real life" and to regularly enter into "real life". Oh I know...painful....just kidding!
If you are a St. Thomas student, allow me to insert a plug for an INCREDIBLE opportunity to serve the community coming up in April. On Saturday, April 16th, 2011, we will be having an event called "Wash my Feet". The day will include breakfast, my wonderful friend and professional speaker Pat Millea http://www.pat-millea.com/, serving at a site around the Twin Cities (the list now includes Feed My Starving Children, Catholic Charities, Sharing and Caring Hands, Episcopal Homes, and many more), and then heading back to campus for a hearty lunch and a short time of reflection on the day. You can sign up for this opportunity by heading to the campus ministry webpage at www.stthomas.edu/campusministry and clicking on the link for "Wash My Feet". Why is it called "Wash my Feet"? Will I be washing others' feet? Yes and no...Jesus Christ washed his disciples feet, and they were surprised, appalled even. They did not understand why he did this. Peter even said, "You will not wash my feet." However when Christ told him, "Unless I wash your feet, you have no inheritance with me" he finally submitted. Christ also says,"I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do." (John 13:15) Please consider signing up for this wonderful opportunity!!! I would love for all of you that are close by to be a part of this day.
Alright, well I close my post asking for your prayers as I leave on retreat in a few hours. Leave me your comments, feedback and perhaps your reflections of where you are in life whether it be freshman, sophomore, senior, mother, high schooler, etc. I'd love to hear from you.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!
All you holy men and women, pray for us!