Naming Grace


Retreat is always an introspective time for me to consider how our students at UB are being served by Campus Ministry and personally, what my role is amongst the students.

I’ve become the “old guy” on the Campus Ministry staff. My lay colleagues are all in their 20s and early 30s. While our directors are older than I, my younger colleagues are quick to inform me of my now middle age. Being bald doesn’t help although it’s become fashionable for younger guys to be bald.

I often also think that my age is an advantage. I’ve reached a maturity which many students trust and think that I just might have something to say. I’ve gained the respect of colleagues and I think (or hope) that I’m approachable as a minister.

One student appreciated the opportunity to recharge her batteries this weekend and often appreciates that our 8PM mass at St. Joe’s has a kind of “peaceful vibe,” as she put it. She wraps up her week by taking that intentional time with us and then heading home to decompress further, readying herself for another intense week of school.

Our students who presented talks made me think just a bit more about how much work goes into these presentations and that they trusted our ministry staff enough to be a bit vulnerable themselves. Their stories touched the hearts and minds of those attending and provided ample jumping off points for the rest of the group in their small group discussions.

St. Ignatius would be excited about creating “contemplatives in action” –people who are dedicated to seeing God in all things. Sometimes we just need a step back to think a bit about who we are and what we are doing in order to return to the everyday with a renewed sense of peace and perhaps purpose. I know I was able to take some moments for quiet on the weekend myself and it renewed some convictions I have about who I am, where I am being led by God and where I need to be challenged to be the best person and minister that I can be.

Upon returning from retreat, I was able to catch up with some former Catholic Volunteers from our Catholic Charities Service Corp who were here for a big reunion of former volunteers. Helping some of them discern their futures and working with them in one on one settings has been quite a good experience for me. Some of those times were some of the more intense experiences of where I have felt God working in my life, through me for the volunteers and also touching me to see things in new ways and opening me up to my own gifts and talents as a minister. The same has been true for many of the students who seek me out for Spiritual Direction and who have retreat experiences with me as well.

Sr. Lois, who I was training a bit this weekend to provide Charis Retreats in her area saw me standing next to a statue of St. Ignatius and replied “You know there’s a bit of resemblance there!” Curtis, one of our students, touched the top of Ignatius’ head and then my bald dome and stated that his head was a bit smoother.

With students like these….is it any wonder I’m not working at Macy’s?

I’m hoping that Ignatius’ spirit is also embedded in my own. I think I have been able to use the Exercises in a way that helps others discern more vividly where they are called in life or to be able to see things a bit more clearly as they are and to dismiss fears and the lack of confidence that some have in themselves.

So “the old guy” has discovered that he’s still got a lot to offer our students. My trainer at the gym told me that I’ve become a good mentor to one of our student-athletes who works out with us each morning–that I push him a bit more and are open enough to let him see the real me—the one who can’t run as fast anymore, who has lousy knees and who struggles with a few extra pounds. But also the one who pushes hard and won’t let others get too down on themselves and who can walk with others no matter what dark path they want to take me down.

It looks more and more like Ignatius has created a mentor out of me. And for that, I am grateful and look to try to do more of that in my ministry. I need to take more opportunities to get in front of students so that they might consider me more often as a mentor, a trusted source. It’s in that vein that I have been renewed by the presence of Ignatius prodding me to see myself at my most joyful moments and to embrace them with grace.

Tonight I pray that my students, my colleagues and you, dear friends, can find that kind of joy in your own lives. The joy of finding grace leads us into greater communion with God and with each other.

Naming grace is where God needs us to be. It helps us see ourselves as God does–with our foibles, yes, but also where we can love with great abandon.

And that grace, which we name, is all that we ever will need.

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