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, Feb. 12, 2013
On April 7, 2012 after a year and a half long process of reflecting, discussing, and allowing myself to be open to all that the Catholic Church had to offer me, I finally received my Sacraments and became an official member of the Catholic Church. The process itself was not an easy one – it took much motivation, discipline, and willingness to take time out of my day to do things I wouldn’t normally bother doing. However, all of the struggles I faced staying committed to the Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA) program here at SCU were nothing compared to the struggles I have been facing, and still continue to face, for the past year or so.
About 2 or 3 months after I received my Sacraments of Baptism, First Eucharist, and Confirmation I found myself attending mass less and less. At first it was mainly because of the fact that the church I attended at home was so far away from my house, but after a few weeks it was mainly because I was just too lazy to go. I would find excuses, or find myself being happy when I had excuse, to not go to mass every Sunday. For a while, I began to think that it was no big deal and that I would pick it up again when I got back to SCU for the beginning of the new year. But that was not the case.
When I got back to school, I continued to skip mass every Sunday, but instead of thinking that it was okay and I would make it up later, I found myself feeling guilty and almost as if the entire RCIA process that I had worked so hard throughout had gone to waste. I was disappointed and mad at myself for not showing more commitment to my faith especially when I did hold my faith as a high priority. I began to develop more and more a sense of loneliness that I hadn’t felt when I was attending mass because going to mass always made me feel part of a larger community. At the same time, I was much less involved in other on campus clubs, such as MCC clubs, and was not doing anything with my time besides homework and working two on campus jobs. Basically, I was in my own stress-filled bubble and was doing nothing to get out of it.
Attending mass on a weekly basis had given me a sense of belonging and an outlet to relieve any stress I had pent up from the week before. Being able to walk up to receive Eucharist during Mass also made me feel great about myself and how hard I worked to achieve that goal. Without it, I began to feel less satisfied with myself and it made me realize that not only had I given up my church community, but I had given up on establishing relationships in other communities that could greatly benefit my well-being as well as assist in achieving my future goals. I tell myself every day that I need to get back on it, but saying things and doing things are so completely different.
Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013
Country music is not a genre I frequently listen to. I don’t have anything against it, I’m just used to listening to mainstream music. But today, I was reunited with an old friend and she played country music in her car on our way to get dinner.
One song in particular really caught my attention. As soon as I heard: “If I could have a beer with Jesus…” I turned up the volume. What an interesting idea! If I could have a beer with Jesus, what would I do? What would I say? What would I ask? As I paid close attention to the lyrics of this song, I began to reflect on my faith and my life.
“Do you hear the prayers I send?”
In middle school, I hated the idea of memorizing prayers. My teachers taught me that a prayer was a conversation with God. I didn’t see the point of memorizing words that I was supposed to say to him. I’ve known the Hail Mary and the Our Father prayer by heart since I was 10 years old, but to this day I just have conversations with my friend Jesus whenever I do pray. But going to a bar and having a casual beer with Jesus would be entirely different. I wouldn’t be able to talk to him as casually as I do when I pray. If I had him right in front of me, I’d feel guilty for not always believing in him. I’d feel guilty for only talking to him when I was going through hard times.
“How’d you turn the other cheek to save a sorry soul like me?”
I grew up Catholic and I know that Jesus died for our salvation. But I think that is so unfair. We still sin and humanity will keep on sinning. Did he really have to die? Giving up his life was the greatest act of love. But even he was scared to go through with it, though he was willing to die if it was God’s will.
The song is sung by Thomas Akins and the lyrics bring up a lot of other questions. What does this song make you think, feel, reflect on? What questions would you have if you could talk to Jesus face to face?
Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013
Over the years, Santa Clara’s campus ministry has grown and developed in order to fulfill its mission of fostering the growth of the spiritual lives of its student body. Today we offer several programs each week, hoping to provide at least one type of activity or group that could appeal to each student. Thus, it makes sense that each has a different approach, feel, and target group.
However, there is one aspect that each area of ministry holds in common with each other: hospitality. Setting up different programs, discussions, and services is only half of the process. In order for each of us to be successful in our ministry, we need to provide a welcoming environment where students can feel safe to explore their spirituality. Spirituality and faith are very sensitive topics and it can be very easy to offend or exclude someone because of a slight difference in beliefs or practices. Hospitality involves extending a warm welcome and acceptance to each person that makes the brave decision to explore his or her spirituality with others, especially if the newcomer doesn’t know anyone in the group.
I’ll admit, when I was first hired as the Hospitality intern, I had very little idea of what it entailed. Wasn’t it just passing out snacks after the 9 p.m. Mass on Sunday? Well … that’s part of it, but definitely not the true essence of it. Hospitality is seeing, accepting, and engaging with others. Back home, at least 95% of the usual crowd at church was Catholic. The Mission at Santa Clara attracts a much more diverse crowd. Standing at the front of the doors of the Mission, I cannot tell who belongs to what religious group. Is this person Catholic? Presbyterian? Methodist? Are they more traditional or progressive? Are they Christian or do they follow another faith? It doesn’t matter. None of that matters. Regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, style, or lack of style (that one would be me) each person is a person--a human being who wants to engage in our liturgy, who hopes to gain something positive from the experience. That is what matters. I have learned to see people as people and not just what they identify as and, rather than judge them based on the differences, celebrate that the differences are not enough to keep us from praying together.
Since I took on this ministry, I have come to enjoy welcoming students each Sunday at Mass and seeing how much they want to be there. This is the key to making hospitality work. Hospitality requires two people: one to open his or her arms, and another to enter into the embrace. I am privileged to witness this, almost on a daily basis: seeing people walk into our office or into Mission Santa Clara and truly wanting to be there. The students we minister to complete our ministry, and I feel truly blessed to take part in something so simple and meaningful each day.
Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013
I knew exactly what I was searching for when I entered campus ministry: a job. I had heard an announcement about an opening for desk receptionists in mass and thought I might as well apply for a work-study job. I was not expecting much; simply hoping to make a little money while answering a few phone calls, helping people with their questions and other basic office work. When I came back to school and had my first few days of formation for orientation I began to understand that I had gotten much more than just a job on campus. The campus ministers and all of the interns were not only encouraging in helping me do well at my job, but also were so intent on getting to know me as a person. I was being welcomed into a community, making a home for
myself at Santa Clara. This was already more than I had ever hoped for.
I was so excited and relieved to see some other campus ministry interns hanging out on the infamous couches when I walked in for my first day. Little did I know, at this point, that this was far from a rare occurrence. As I witnessed the singing, storytelling and overall goofiness that occurred on the office couches I quickly picked up on the fact that this was far from the average office environment. Although working at the desk, I do not get to witness much of the work that occurs within the recesses of the intern’s and minister’s offices, I do get to be a part of another form of work that is just as important. At first one may see the fun and games that occur within the walls of Campus Ministry as goofing off or procrastination, which maybe at times it is, but I have also come to realize, as I have witnessed it many a time, that this is a pivotal part of what those in Campus Ministry do. This is a form of ministering to the needs of the Santa Clara University whether that is a need for laughter, an uplifting conversation or a listening ear. Sitting at the front desk, I have had the opportunity to see the many people that pass through Campus Ministry, some briefly and other repeat customers who love to claim a chair for the day. I see the effect that being in this environment, where others are in such genuine communion with one another, has on people. There are ways in which it brightens their day and teaches them a new way of being, spreading that light, love and the presence of God to the rest of the campus whether they realize it or not.
It took me awhile to recognize that I had become a part of this infectious environment, that the contact I have with each person that comes into Campus Ministry, whether they are a newcomer or a regular, is their introduction to this amazing community. And with this realization, I found something else; I found purpose. I cannot guarantee that in Campus Ministry you will find exactly what you are looking for, but often the greatest things to discover are the things we did not even know we were missing.
Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012
Going on the Search Retreat this past weekend was exactly what I needed. It was a chance to get away from the hecticness of life, take some time for myself, and get back in touch with God. Few Santa Clara students find themselves bored here at school, for more often than not, they are extremely busy and involved. This is an awesome thing for the university, and makes SCU the vibrant, engaging place it is. But it also means non-stop days and late nights, the sacrifice of personal reflection and other “me time,” and, in some cases, a tendency to drift away from a relationship with God. I feel I have clearly experienced each of these three in the past few months since returning from summer.
Search allowed me to take a look at all aspects of my life, especially the one I have here at SCU. Not until this weekend did I see with my own eyes the absolute strength of our school-wide community, ranging across campus and beyond. I knew there were lots of great people here, and I have been fortunate to find great friends through classes and my RLC, but it was this retreat that showed me the distance that this one SCU community stretches, and the breadth of God’s love. Beyond most other thoughts this weekend was the gratitude I felt on several occasions for the opportunity to attend Santa Clara. None of this would have been for me had I not picked SCU. I wouldn’t have been on the retreat, I wouldn't meet the people I did, and I wouldn’t have the close friends I had already made at SCU. I knew I already made the right decision for college, but it sure reinforced why I love SCU so much. From the programs and opportunities offered to the people that make up the community, I can’t help but grow in love for the school I call my home.
The love that was present for one another and for the whole SCU community was truly awesome to see. Hugs spread like a contagious virus, and it was apparent more than ever that God was shinning through other people. But, as anyone who has been on a retreat knows, the biggest challenge begins once back home, as one tries to continue the high spirits of the retreat. This time, though, I already feel the lasting affect. Aside from the several additional “hellos” from those I met, I know I have tapped into the heart of the SCU community and now share a greater amount of love and appreciation for this place and the people who work and study here.
Now, as I prepare to return home for Thanksgiving, I am mentally refreshed and in a good place. I initially thought that I would be “wasting a break from school” by going on retreat right before a holiday, but nothing could have been more aptly timed. Having experienced all the hustle and bustle of this quarter, this weekend helped me re-center myself. When I return home, rather than just relaxing or “checking out” due to exhaustion, I will be ready to reconnect with my family and friends, and share the love from the retreat with them as we begin the holiday season together once again. And that’s just what I needed.