Onward and upward: spiritual growth beyond Xavier

Lizzie Self, Club Writer

I have yet to find a college packing list on Pinterest that includes a rosary. Or a Bible. The lists I have managed to find encourage footwear for all weather, cleaning supplies, approximately two weeks’ worth of clothes—just two weeks?!— and of course those adorable little bulb lights to string up around your desk to polish off the aesthetic. In the hustle and bustle of moving on to greater things, it seems that these Pinterest-savvy college girls have left their faith at home, maybe in the dusty bottom drawer of a closet. Xavier’s class of 2018 is nearly ready to leave the nest, but have seniors taken the time to consider what it really means to be leaving? For many, this is a transition from over a dozen years spent in private schools to a new stage in life at a public university where mass and adoration are not built into the curriculum.

First, it is best to consider what we have received while here, on our little piece of 7th Street. Beside the class retreats, theology courses, and all-school masses, Xavier has provided us with many opportunities to explore spirituality. Brooke Howard ‘18 shares that doing service with Xavier, particularly on the Ecuador trip, helped her to grow in her faith and make it a priority in her life. She desires to take more theology classes to further develop her faith, inspired by the realization that continued learning is her responsibility. To the juniors and underclassmen, she offers advice: “You have to really put the effort in to see your faith grow. You can’t just sit back and wait for it to happen on its own.” Elie Carlos ‘18 agrees, suggesting that her fellow gators “find time every day for God. I know that as a Xavier student, it’s hard enough looking for time to sleep, but keeping in touch with your faith is just as important as your math homework. Whether it’s making sure to pray every night, focusing on God during adoration, or going to morning mass, there are a lot of different ways to make room in your day for your faith.”

Spiritual growth looks different person to person. For Carlos, it means being a Eucharistic Minister. She confides: “I felt that becoming one at Xavier helped me understand the significance of the Body of Christ more in mass and it has an important role in my life… During our last senior retreat, [Father Matt Lowry] told us that celebrating the Eucharist is how we can still be together even when we’re miles apart, and I think that that’s true.” While sharing in the body of Christ in the sacrament is at the heart of the Catholic faith, we recognize that Catholic spirituality demands more of us. Great Books and Senior theology teacher Mr. DiStefano reflects on the various films his class has watched throughout the year and their self-sacrificing protagonists—Sophie Scholl and members of the White Rose, Thomas More, Fr Gabriel and his fellow priests, and the monks of Tibhirine. He says: “Hopefully students will remember from these stories, as well as the other material we cover, something of what it means to call Jesus “Lord.” That a living faith inspires and is guided by an active love, both for God and neighbor. And that God calls each of us to love in creative ways that take shape in the midst of our daily lives and the different communities we are all part of.” If our faith is of an active and creative nature, then we can live truly authentically, participating in an adventure greater than anything we could map out for ourselves. If our faith is of an active and creative nature, then it will demand our attention and efforts every day. DiStefano concludes: “Faith is a gift, but it must be developed and deepened. You don’t “lose” it as much as you let it dwindle away; it’s the daily choices you make that determine how strong or weak it becomes. Finding people who share your faith and becoming part of their lives and activities is essential here.”

Engaging with community is one concrete way to solidify the future of your spirituality, but let us hope that surrounding ourselves with other faithful is not the full extent of our spiritual practice. Dr. Lueken, a Senior theology teacher, urges that there be “no separation between what you do on Sunday and everything else.” Whatever our professed faith, Catholic or not, consistency in virtue and practice are worth all effort we can muster. By prayer, study, meditation, reception of the Sacraments, practice of the arts, and a whole host of other things, we can progress further into spiritual life.

One aspect of the Catholic faith that I have found extremely compelling is its rich history, which we have explored throughout these past four years at Xavier, and our role in it as members of the Church. In speaking about Church history, Lueken emphasizes that this is “the history that continues… and so we studied numerous testimonies down through the centuries that show God has not abandoned us, beautiful stories— not just historical facts — and we discover that the Christian proposal is attractive and reasonable… but this students have to decide for themselves and verify for themselves.” The search for truth, goodness, and beauty has been at the heart of my faith experience in the Xavier classroom, and it will not conclude on May 20th.

There are many things that I and the rest of the Seniors look forward to experiencing in college. Who my roommate will be, what clubs and sports will occupy my time, what my classes will be like, and how happy I will be are all questions I’ve spent countless hours pondering, and only in my faith have I found the peace and patience I need in this transition; nothing on Pinterest is half as satisfying as half an hour spent journaling before the Blessed Sacrament. Seniors, enjoy packing and designing your dorm room—but don’t forget your rosary!