I have a vivid memory from my childhood of a sleepy afternoon in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, with sunlight filtering in through the small stained glass window and a grassy expanse just beyond the cool air of the church where I grew up.
I first came to know God through the sense of peace that develops from time spent in reflective silence in a beautiful place, whether in a church or in nature. And since then, I have known God more particularly in communion with others.
As long as I can remember, I have worked on my prayer, beginning with recitation and the comfort of a Hail Mary and developing more personal modes of contemplation and conversation with God as I matured. Learning new forms of prayer at Georgetown has been one of the most rewarding aspects of a Jesuit education. St. Ignatius taught us ways of dialogue to engage our spiritual imagination and relate to God as a companion. His spiritual exercises have expanded my sense of relationship with God through the Jesuit focus of seeing the Divine in all things. Thus, my everyday life is elevated by God’s presence in all my concerns and in all the graces.
I have been participating in the God’s Light and Love six-week prayer retreat for the Fall 2022 semester, during which I have committed to praying each day. When I enter Dahlgren Chapel, the space itself provides grounding. I have been reflecting on the concept of spiritual grounding ever since it was the theme of the Catholic student leaders’ retreat I attended at the Calcagnini Contemplative Center at the beginning of the semester. Recently, daily prayer has become a definitive source of peace and stability that forces me to slow down, quiet my mind and reflect in God’s presence.
Quiet moments spent in Dahlgren infuse the busyness of Georgetown with peace that I can carry into the rest of my day, and reflection clarifies what is most important. I can sift through all the possibilities before me and decide what merits my time and energy. Presenting my worries before God puts them in perspective. No concern is too insignificant to place in God’s hands, but when I do so, God’s vast love becomes more apparent in comparison to my small worries.
A few Sundays ago, Catholic Ministry celebrated the Mass of Belonging for which I was on the planning committee. Fr. Mark Bosco, S.J., gave a beautiful homily on the LGBTQ+ community in the Catholic Church, their place of belonging at the heart of the Church and their experience of marginalization by Catholic leaders and congregations. During this Mass, I felt the magnitude of communion that the Eucharist imparts. Hearing the liturgy’s references to a God of the poor, the words resonated more deeply as I contemplated the people at Georgetown and across the world who belong personally to the heart of Christ.
At the core of my religious experience is this belonging and communion, which I feel so palpably here at Georgetown. The Catholic Ministry community is a place where I will always find a welcoming face. The students, Jesuits and chaplains are friends and teachers who see daily life as seeped in meaning and greet the seriousness of life and relationship with great joy.
I was born and raised Catholic, but being Catholic in a university setting takes on a new meaning. Everyone I meet in college who practices their faith has chosen it. Of the many activities and organizations students can join, many chose to devote time to Catholic Ministry, whether that be by attending 6 p.m. Mass in Dahlgren or waking up at 5 a.m. on a Sunday to deliver breakfast to people on D.C.’s streets. I see this same desire to engage intentionally in discernment and communion in the Catholic Faith Community that I co-lead, where we meet once a week in a small group to discuss life and faith.
The people of Catholic Ministry have become markers of my belonging at Georgetown and reminders of God’s love present on campus. Every Jesuit priest shows personal interest in my life and my studies. The student-run organization Catholic Women at Georgetown offers a space of friendship in Christ through service, prayer, dialogue and shared meals. Seeing the chaplains at Mass or around campus reminds me that I am connected to a community here.
My involvement in Catholic Campus Ministry is a continuous reminder of my belonging at Georgetown and the significance of my identity in the eyes of God. This community’s call to reflection yields a daily life in which I recognize the smallest moments as gifts.
Luciana Strathern is a Junior in the College.