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, 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.
Tuesday, Apr. 9, 2013
Last year I was working in the Philippines for the Jesuit study abroad program called Casa Bayanihan and we had taken the students to get away for a three day silent retreat at a beautiful retreat house on the Laguna de Bay. I was particularly looking forward to spending time near the water and experiencing God in the surrounding nature. I am orginally from San Diego, California and have grown accustomed to seeing specactular and awe-inspiring sunsets and have even on occasion been fortunate enough to spot the elusive "green flash." I consider these moments to be glimpses into God because of their beauty and the peace that seems to exude from a setting sun. Something that weekend, however, was calling me to the other end of the day and encouraging me to seek out a sunrise. I had often heard about the beauty of sunrises and all the colors that fill the sky, but had never gotten up early enough with the intention of watching a sunrise. I spoke with the manager of the retreat house and she advised me to wake up around five in order to see the full sunrise.
I like to consider myself a "morning person," yet there was something about that early wake up call that made me question whether a sunset, which is at a totally reasonable hour, would be enough to experience God. Still, I persisted and set my alarm clock for five a.m. and groggily got out of bed around 5:07. I walked over to our meeting room and saw one of the men sweeping off the porch and whistling a happy tune that I didn't recognize. Surely, this was a sign that I had made the right decision in getting up. When he saw me he smiled and told me that there was coffee inside and offered me a cup, which I took to be another sign of the good things to come. Once I had poured myself a cup of coffee, I walked out onto the dock next to our meeting room that extended about fifty yards into the bay. At the end of the dock were three little huts with benches that I figured I could sit on as I watched the sun rise over the bay.
I settled in, cup of coffee in hand and began to pray in the darkness. I gave thanks for the retreat, for the beautiful location, and for the people I was with. I asked God to be with me as I struggled with the severe injustices and poverty that I was encountering in the Philippines. I asked God to guide me in my actions to best accompany those in my community. I prayed that I feel consoled and inspired by the sunrise and that it help me to feel connected to my family and friends back home who were still in the middle of their day. The prayers went on and on and I felt very peaceful just looking out at the city skyline beyond the bay and listening to the water splash around the posts of the dock. As I was gazing over the water towards Manila and the dozens of high rises along the skyline, I realized that everything around me had become a little bit lighter. I searched the horizon for the yellow circle of the sun but could not locate it anywhere, and yet everything around me looked as though the sun had indeed already risen.
Now, I continued to look for longer than I would like to admit before finally realizing the problem: I had been looking the wrong way the whole time. I slowly turned around and there was the sun, already completely risen over the hills on the other side of the bay. My first reaction was true disappointment. I felt jipped. I wanted to see the sun and the colors around her as she rose over the skyline. I wanted to lose my breath in the beauty and be struck by God's great goodness. I wanted the moment, the picture, the story of how I found God in the most beautiful of sunrises. Suffice it to say I didn't get what I wanted, but after some reflection I realized that I had actually experienced something much more realistic and poignant for my faith journey.
Sometimes I set out with the best intention yet desiring a very specific outcome. Most of the time I find myself facing the completely wrong direction and I "miss" whatever it was I thought I desired. Yet, just as the sun illuminated all that was around me even though I never saw her, so too does God touch everything in my life without me even realizing God is there. I woke up early the following day, this time facing the right direction, and I saw truly the most beautiful sunrise I could have ever imagined. It was everything I had been told and even more and there was no doubt in my mind that God had created it. Still, I continued to think back to the previous morning and felt even more grateful that I had been able to experience God in a much less grand way because then I knew that I didn't have to be on a retreat or in a beautiful location to feel God's presence. I pray that my experience of the unseen sunrise continues to touch my heart and inspire me to find God in all of the miraculous and the even more numerous yet totally average moments of each and every day.
Tuesday, Apr. 2, 2013
Studying for midterms, collaborating on group projects, attending club meetings, working, and finding time for socializing are all aspects of daily lives that we college students have to fit in our already-full schedules. Personally, I am easily susceptible to becoming quite anxious when overthinking about what my day entails, especially if many unchecked tasks on my extensive “To-Do” list remain by mid-day. However, as I now reflect on the long and stressful days I’ve had so far in college, I’ve realized they’ve actually helped me learn how to take better care of myself in a multitude of ways.
About halfway through Winter Quarter, amidst the first round of midterms and papers due, I didn’t quite find a balance between my academics and extracurricular commitments as well as I would have liked to. I wasn’t making time to relax and take care of myself mentally or spiritually as often as I had before; I became too consumed with my thoughts of what lay ahead in my busy day rather than being attentive and productive in the present. After awhile, I realized I had to do something to ease my stress so that I could go about my day efficiently and contently. I had to convince myself that I wouldn’t be selfish or unproductive if I took a couple minutes out of my day to simply relax. I took a couple of progressive steps forward in learning to take care of myself, and two steps back at other times. But I realized that taking time away from daily demands every once in awhile didn’t hurt my productivity overall; it actually enhanced it so that I could be fully present for every task at hand.
I rely heavily on my ‘personal goal’ checklists and creative outlets to keep me content, so I decided that making a quick list of everything I wanted to do as part of my “downtime” in my week would be a great start to taking care of myself. From a physical standpoint, I started taking more personal walks around campus, found time to pray at the Mission Church, and even took naps throughout the day (which is something I never usually found time to do!). I also made a small amount of time for my favorite hobbies as a form of a mentally creative outlet, such as sewing clothes for friends with my sewing machine I brought from home, finding spiritual quotes to serve as inspirational reminders on my dorm walls, and catching up with my high school friends through hand-written letters.
Finding time to do what you love, whether a small or grand action, or dedicating time for relaxation can help relieve the stress that comes with the crazy demands of college life. Ultimately, I had to change my mentality on the way I valued my time in order to take better care of myself. I’m still trying to achieve my perfect balance of tending to commitments I’ve made while simultaneously scheduling in personal leisure time, but it’s not a balance that I believe should be discovered quickly. Recently, I always try to remind myself that taking care of myself today helps alleviate the stress of tomorrow. I value the overwhelming moments I’ve had throughout my college experience thus far because, in retrospect, these moments have taught me that I am able to overcome the stressful days and can continue to work towards finding a balance that works for me. Taking care of yourself is one of the most important things you can do for yourself in college. Whether mentally, physically, or spiritually, it simply allows you time for personal growth, discovery, and reflection so you can focus on becoming the most content and best “you” possible.
Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2013
Text messages, phone calls, Facebook updates, classes, clubs, homework, new friends, emotional challenges—each of us have hundreds of things vying for our attention every day. I often find that I am too busy to take time for myself—there are too many things to do, people to see, experiences to have, deadlines to meet. Of course caring for myself naturally would be the least of my concerns.
Most of the time I can pretty successfully push aside my exhaustion, stress, and sometimes chaotic emotions, in order to do all of the things I feel that I need to do; but, I have found that it is only a matter of time until my personal needs catch up and refuse to be ignored.
I wonder if there is a reason for this? Perhaps, I am in need of something more that will sustain me throughout each week.
Fortunately, Jesus demonstrates the solution for us: human flourishing requires consistent relationship with God. Even Jesus, though He is God, had to take time away from what He was doing in order to recharge and prepare for what was coming next. The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus “would often withdraw to the wilderness to pray” (Luke 5:16). Some translations say that Jesus withdrew to “desolate” or “lonely” places. Regardless of which translation we use, one thing is clear: Jesus regularly took time to be alone and commune with God as a way of rejuvenating Himself. It makes me wonder if we might actually be selling ourselves short when we don’t make time for God, no matter how busy we may seem to be. Maybe spending time connecting with God is actually one of the most practical things we can do.
In my own life, I have seen how God keeps drawing me back—sometimes gently and other times dramatically. Maybe I had a particularly busy quarter with way more work than I seem to have time for and too many obligations to fulfill. Once again, the daily time with God I want to have becomes more of a monthly thing. I have time for everything except simply sitting and talking with my Father. It’s in these times that I start to feel my need for God because without regular interaction I become separated from the source of Living Water that God promises to be for us.
Each of us are thirsty people who have needs that must be met, but there is only one Source that fully satisfies. As I have taken time with making God a priority each day—not simply on Sunday—I can see how He not only changes my heart towards Him and other people, but also rejuvenates and sustains me in tangible ways.
One of the most important things I have learned in college is to recognize the things that I need. God created each of us to need more than what we can provide for ourselves: we also need Him.