Image courtesy of outloud.com
This time of year brings a parade of moving trucks, SUVs and vans, packed to the hilt, making the trek to college dorms and apartments. Dreams of graduation dates and soul-fulfilling careers are loaded amongst the gear for each aspiring, college-bound student making the big move. But first, each person must begin their own pilgrimage of learning. Not yet an expert or familiar with the route ahead, these pilgrims must lean into the experience with eyes wide open. New professors, friends, and routines are opportunities to widen one’s world view. College is the time to delve into the questions of life!
St. Rose Convent shares a campus with Viterbo University. One of my favorite things to do during move-in weekend is simply watch students and families haul in carts full of supplies and, a few hours later, drag out about a third of what they moved in. And as a former campus minister, I recall routinely observing students once classes had started, stumbling along and mumbling to themselves “What? My professors are not going to remind me every day that I have an assignment due?” “Where am I, anyway?”
Whether or not you are a college student, I imagine you can recall a time in your life when that last question entered your mind. Perhaps you’re carrying it with you right now, on this new road of discernment — painstakingly aware that you do not know what in the world you are doing, where you are going.
I remember feeling that way the first time I visited a religious community and joined in Liturgy of the Hours — evening prayer. I can almost hear the beautiful opening song, one I’d never heard before, sung in four-part harmony. But then all I could hear was lots of flipping pages, communal responses, more flipping pages, and my brain pleading with me to find the right response, to not speak out at the wrong time. “What in the world is happening?” Completely disoriented I begged God to guide me through this new experience. It didn't take long to find my voice.
Everyone has new beginnings and as summer slowly turns to fall, know that you are on your way to finding your feet in whatever stage — like discernment — is developing in your life. Don’t be afraid to jump in, to try it out, to see where you land. What would happen if you contacted the community whose website is open in your browser? What would it be like to go and visit and see first-hand what until now you only imagined in your mind about religious life? If the worst thing is getting lost during evening prayer, just look at the sister or brother near you and follow the best you can. Afterwards, share a laugh and ask what they remember about the first time they visited a community. A good sense of humor will carry you far as you continue to discern.
This week I invite you to ponder …
What lessons are you learning in your discernment that, until now, you didn’t have a clue were important to know?
What would happen if you saw discernment as a pilgrimage?
What are the questions you wish you had the courage to ask?