Usually when I set out to ”examine my conscience”, I’m standing in line for confession and calling to mind the instances during which I’ve fallen short in love or virtue. There’s an ancient practice in the Church, however, that calls us to dwell on a broader scope of moments. The Daily Examen, written by Saint Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises, prioritizes gratitude and thanksgiving. Each evening, members of Jesuit communities and laypeople alike continue to dwell on God’s presence, His gifts, ways to improve in loving, and the hope of a day to come through the use of Ignatian methods. We, too, are called to make thanksgiving a priority. On this day widely dedicated to such a practice, our writers look back on a tumultuous year to find that even here, God has indeed given us much to be grateful for.
The driving narrative of my life this year has been my conversion into the Catholic Church. I started that journey in January 2020, and I was confirmed in September. Upon making the decision to enter the Church in February, our sweet King gifted me with four months to sit and ponder. I would be lying if I said every day was fun, but certainly the Lord revealed Himself to me in new ways.
Perhaps the biggest way God has been present to me, though, has been through relationships. My fellow counselors at camp this summer? They were gifts who showed me what self-sacrificial service looks like. Our priests? They are gifts who lead me and father me well. My roommates? They are gifts who meet me in my mess and provide space for me to be entirely who I was created to be. My friends? They are gifts who love me and provide glimpses of Christ to me. Each relationship in my life has been a tangible representation of the abundant love God wants to show me, and while this year was one of the hardest of my life, I cannot help but be thankful for the journey and the people the Lord has chosen for me.
This year, I am most thankful for the ways that the pandemic taught me a slower pace of life. Leaving campus this past March was not something I wanted, but it was something I desperately needed! All of a sudden, I had freedom to rest, recharge, and reflect on why I was living life at such a high speed, and the space to learn how to slow down. I finally grew comfortable with the slower life pace that I had been trying to find. I would sit at the kitchen table with two of my brothers doing homework, and rejoice in the ordinary - the sitting and being in company of those I love. We were blessed with so much time together as a family, which brought much needed healing to my heart. I find myself looking back and longing for those months. The months that at first, I resented so much, but now, are what I am most thankful for this Thanksgiving.
It is somewhat difficult to know where to begin when writing about how God has been present to me the last 6 months. I think the best way to sum it all up is by saying that the point God has driven home to me during this time is that I must have Him as my firm foundation in life. Faith has to be at the core of everything I do, otherwise it will crumble. Amidst the anxieties and growing fears surrounding the year 2020, God has been ever present to me through prayer, the Eucharist, and spending time with my loved ones-- even if the latter two have to happen virtually sometimes. This Thanksgiving more than ever, I am recognizing not to take for granted hugging those I love and celebrating the sacrifice of the Mass in person. Through prayer and hope, I believe we will return to normalcy one day, and I hope that day is very soon.
This year has been a wild ride. One of the unexpected blessings of this year has been an abundance of time. There was more time with family. There was more time to rest. There was more time to reflect. There was more time to grow. There was more time to pray. This year God made it easier than ever before to spend time in prayer. The highlight of this year for me has been the time God has given me. The initial quarantine time of this year was like an extended retreat though I didn't initially realize it. The rest of the year has been full of seeing the fruits of that time frame. This year God took what seemed like insurmountable barriers and burdens, like getting sent home early last semester, and transformed them into beautiful blessings that I never saw coming.
Friends, this year has been a unique series of challenges. It is easy to look around and wonder where God has been, and what he’s doing. Here, we can draw comfort from the first paragraph of the Catechism, which says
“God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.”
We know where God is, and what he is doing. He is, as always, drawing near. As we celebrate Thanksgiving and enter into advent, when we remember and relearn how to wait for God, we invite all of you to join us in giving thanks for the ways he has drawn near to you. We would love to hear how he has been drawing close to you all this year.
Know of our prayers, and happy Thanksgiving.
-The staff and student writers of Konza Catholic