Reaching Within Blog
Reflections from students, staff, and faculty about how they're living their faith, engaging spirituality, or trying to integrate their lives meaningfully. This blog began in May 2012.
Tuesday, May. 21, 2013
In the course of my Christian life, I have met many Christians who fear immersing themselves in other religions. They often say that they fear losing their faith, or feel no need to study other religions when they know that Christ is the Way. I do not understand the mentality of these "prophets of doom" who feel their faith threatened by the presence of those who believe differently. But for me, embracing the unknown is a crucial part of being Christian, especially in our interreligious world.
My religious formation has always been interreligious. When I was 20 and in RCIA, I began meditating at a local zendo, immersing myself in the apophatic mystery. Around the same time, a chance encounter with an acquaintance converting to Judaism led to my taking Biblical Hebrew lessons from the local rabbi. More recently, I spent last summer at Rangjung Yeshe Institute, a Buddhist Studies program attached to a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Kathmandu. As part of this program, we had a 10-day meditation retreat after the course was over. On the eighth day of the retreat, a group of students and I hiked up a nearby hill to a Hindu shrine to Shiva. Here we were, at ten at night at the top of a hill in a Hindu and Buddhist country studying Tibetan Buddhism - yet the conversation turned to Christ. This and other profoundly shaping experiences in my Buddhist Studies program did not diminish, but strengthen my faith. I empathize with Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith Youth Corps, when he said that serious encounter with members of other faiths actually clarified and strengthened his religious identity as a Muslim. Most importantly, I feel blessed that I have always been welcomed as guests in these other traditions.
So for me, the experience of God in my life is not what some would consider "Catholic." I am not an avid prayer of the rosary. I do not go to confession as often as I should. I do not have any special devotions to saints. As a practitioner of an "interfaith faith," I seek to be both at the center of the Christian tradition and on the fringes, finding God in Zen meditation or rabbinic exegesis of the Bible. I find God in study, in encounters with others, in those moments in conversations where ideas I didn't even know I had are being challenged and overturned. All of these are graced moments, moments in which I feel Ignatian consolation of God's presence.
Jonathan Homrighausen is a junior double major in religious studies and classics. For the 2013-2014 school year he will be the Campus Ministry Interfaith Intern. Lately for fun he has been reading H.P. Lovecraft and parsing Hebrew verbs.
Tuesday, May. 14, 2013
When I started college, I was pretty uncertain about my spirituality and what that word even meant to me. As a senior, I still have a lot of questions. But I’ve become more comfortable with that uncertainty. I’ve learned that some things bring me peace, while other things bring me disturbance. I think that’s how I would describe my spirituality at this point in time. Father McCarthy discussed this phenomenon at our immersion kick-off meeting, and it really resonated with me. I’ve also learned that sometimes it takes those moments of disturbance or turmoil to redirect myself towards peace. After three years of experiences that taught me this dichotomy, I entered senior year hoping to take advantage of opportunities that I felt would lead me towards peace. When I think of the places where I find this feeling, I think of the authentic communities I have found at Santa Clara. One of these communities has been created through my immersion trips. Immersions have blessed me with experiences that tested, deepened, and nurtured my spirit.
Last year, I went to Arizona on the Navajo Nation trip. The opportunity to have a reflective week without the distractions around me at school was one that I embraced. It was a week where I felt more in touch with my spirituality than I had in a long time. I yearned to keep this feeling alive, and I applied to be an immersion coordinator for this year. Next thing I knew, I was preparing to lead the spring break trip to San Jose. I was correct in thinking that leading a trip would deepen my spirituality, but it did so in ways that I didn’t anticipate.
As a participant in the Navajo Nation trip, I had felt more present than ever. I was able to leave my phone, my classes, and my life at Santa Clara for a week of simplicity. My focus was on whatever person or moment presented itself to me, and I spent more time reflecting than I ever had at school. This year, as a leader, I was focused on making sure things ran smoothly. I had my phone with me and was constantly thinking of what was next. In some ways, this took away from the unique experience that I had as a participant. But in so many other ways, I was able to grow.
Throughout college, some of the experiences that bring people the most growth are contemplation, volunteering, community, and immersion into new environments. Being an immersion coordinator was an intensive way of experiencing a combination of these things. In the span of a week, I was exposed to the challenges and gifts that come with being a leader in an already intense environment. The combination of the immersion and being a leader brought up so many questions about myself, my spirituality, the suffering we witnessed, my vocation, my relationships, and my responsibility to others. I think it taught me that there is much more to my spirituality than giving myself time to reflect. My spirituality is tried, but also nourished by pushing myself. It deepens further by forcing myself to find out how I want to be better, how I can help make things better for others, and by exposing the questions in myself that can be challenging and sometimes uncomfortable to explore.
On the trip, we were asked to design a flag in response to the question “why do you do what you do?” I realized that, for me, I do what I do to revitalize myself and to instill that peace I talked about earlier. My response was “to fuel my spirit.” Experiences like immersion are really what do that for me. They remind me that there is more to life than what I see every day. They remind me what it feels like to be surrounded by authenticity. They also remind me that there is so much to work on in myself and in the rest of the world. The feeling of peace, the feeling of really being alive, doesn’t come from being comfortable. This is strange for me to realize, because I associate peace with comfort. But the feeling of peace I’m describing is so much deeper than that. It’s the feeling I have at my core when love fully fills me. I think what I’ve learned above all else is that I get this feeling from challenging myself, from shaking up my beliefs, from learning from people who are so different from me, and from being remolded to become more whole. My experiences at Santa Clara, immersion being a key one, have helped teach me this. I have gained a greater appreciation for the afflictions that can come during spiritual discernment. My path after I graduate is unclear, both spiritually and vocationally, but I hope that following what brings me peace will lead me in the right direction.
My name is Michelle Davidson, and I am currently a senior at SCU. I love to spend time with friends, travel, run, and be outdoors. On campus, I've enjoyed being involved in groups like SCCAP, EMS, and immersion programs. Over spring break, I led the San Jose immersion trip. It was a wonderful experience that taught me a lot. I will be graduating this spring and plan to stay in the area.
Tuesday, May. 7, 2013
The Virgin of Guadalupe is recognized as a symbol of all Catholic Mexicans and “Nuestra Morenita’s” brown appearance speaks to the mestizaje or mixedness of a new culture in the Americas, part native and part European. “La Virgen Guadalupana” is a celebrated Roman Catholic icon of the Virgin Mary and is considered by many the Patroness of the Americas. Like many other Catholics, the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe speaks to us about the strong connection she has with her “children” and her “pueblo.” La Virgen has been part of my life since I was a child and she continues to be someone I can always pray to and have faith in. The knowledge I have gained here at Santa Clara University has allowed me to have a deeper understanding of Nuestra Morenita. Professor Ana Maria Pineda is someone I can definitely thank for teaching me about La Virgen, because her courses revolve around La Virgen and the history and symbolism attached to La Virgen de Tepeyac. The Virgin of Guadalupe has been accompanying me in my path in life and she has shown me that she will always be with me in the best and worst of times.
As a young child I had always been taught to pray to La Virgen to guide me in the right direction and to always be my protector. La Virgen was someone I could reach out to in times of both joy and sadness and she always helps me realize how blessed I am. Although I had never really been in a situation of high stress and fear, La Virgen was with me and my family when we found out my mother had been diagnosed with cancer. This was a very difficult moment in my life because it was just weeks before I started my first year in college, and I was uncertain about what was to come, both for my family and myself. After much time of prayer and reflection I knew that the best decision would be to continue my dreams of attending college because this was something my mother had always hoped I would accomplish. My first three years at Santa Clara were great, yet I always continued to fear the worst for my mother. What kept me motivated and at peace with myself was the fact that my mother was being well taken care of and that I had a great support group here on campus. Not only did I have friends and professors who showed support and love, but I always knew La Virgen de Guadalupe was with me in my struggles.
It is not easy for me to talk about my personal life to others, but I chose to write this piece, because I believe La Virgen de Guadalupe performed a divine act, which I will never forget. On January 12, 2012, I received a phone call from my sister telling me how my mother had taken a turn for the worse. I was uncertain of what to do or even what to think about it, especially because I had planned to take a retreat with the Christian Life Community (CLC) just a day later. I was unsure of the severity of my mother’s condition and I did not know if I should plan to drive back home to Pasadena that weekend. That afternoon I went to the Mission Church and prayed before the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe and asked her to give me strength and to allow me to make the best decision. After much reflection and prayer that day I knew La Virgen was telling me to head home and be with my mother and all I could ask La Virgen for was to give me the opportunity to see my mother once again. All I could say is that I am blessed to have had the chance to spend one last day by the side of my mother talking about our family and dreams before she passed away on January 15, 2012. I am forever in debt to La Virgen for continuing to give me the strength, wisdom, health, and faith I have today. This piece does not do justice for how much I love La Virgen, but I hope this story can help others realize how faith and hope can help when they too face a difficult challenge in their life.
Luis Efren Aguilar is a senior psychology major who aspires to obtain a PhD in Clinical Psychology. If you run into him right now you might see a GRE study book under his arm. In his spare time he works out, follows soccer, and has a soft spot in his heart for the LA Dodgers.
Tuesday, Apr. 30, 2013
This week we are referring you to two guest bloggers for the CNS Branches website: Gus Hardy and Mark Rogers.
In Gus' piece, he asks the question, "How worthy must I be?" as it relates to the Eucharist. Gus is a Freshman at Santa Clara studying Political Science and Religious Studies. Gus is involved in many extracurricular activities on campus, including Associated Student Government and several Campus Ministry groups.
In Mark's poem he tries to do much more than scratch the surface and encourages us to dig into our hearts. Says Mark, “I am a senior Mathematics Major from Sacramento California. On campus I love to play intramural sports, be involved with Core Christian Fellowship, root for my Broncos at any sport, read poetry at open mic nights, relax in the sunshine with friends, and go to any event that offers free food.”
Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2013
On Monday the United States reeled in horror as yet another tragedy struck innocent citizens – this time, during one of the most famous foot races in the world: the Boston marathon.
Two explosions near the popular running route left three people dead – including a young boy – and over 170 wounded. Catholic News Service reported that the Archdiocese of Boston expressed a “deep sorrow following the senseless acts,” of which nobody can justify. The act occurred on Patriot’s Day, celebrated in Massachusetts as a civic holiday for the beginning of the American Revolution.
This event follows a line of violence that has haunted our country for the last few years. With political parties up in arms about limiting public access to guns and other assault weapons, we have to wonder why the senseless violence that our Boston cardinal mentions is being perpetuated. What are the motives of these people involved? Who is to blame? Our educational system, lack of psychological and mental health care, or the media? And what can us, as American citizens, do to combat this string of innocent casualties?
At this time, we are called together as Catholics to pray. We will pray for those lives lost in the explosions, we will pray for the families and communities close to the explosion site who could have been harmed, and we will pray that this string of tragedies comes to an end. We will pray for those responsible for this event and for those who have planned similar events. We will pray that we can come together as a nation to comfort and help each other, and that nobody should ever feel so deserted and lost that they will resort to this type of hatred. We will pray that our children do not have to grow up in a world as harsh as the one that we live in. And we will pray for the safety of innocent people around the world, in the hopes we do not have to face a devastation like this again.
See what you can do to lend a helping hand to the victims of this tragedy.
Rachel is an undergraduate at Santa Clara University studying journalism with a passion for writing and a thirst for adventure. Her piece was written for her role as a student associate for CNS (Catholic News Service) Branches. Like them on Facebook and join the conversation.