In the last few days my facebook feed has been flooded with photos and statuses of people returning to or coming for the first time to Franciscan University of Steubenville, the place I have called home for the past four years, a place that has formed me more than I can put into words, brought me closer to the Lord than I knew possible, and given me some of the most treasured relationships I have had in my life as of yet.
Everyone told me that the hardest part about graduating would be when the reality sets in that everyone is returning to campus and you’re not. And so I thought that right about now I would miss it. I thought I would have a hard time. I thought I would hate being anywhere but there. But somehow, I don’t.
One week ago, I moved to a new city to begin a new job at a new parish filled with people I have never met. And naturally, this has got me pondering.
As I ponder, I am realizing the reason I don’t miss it, the reason why my heart is at peace in all this newness. And that’s because what I loved most about that beautiful place, what I loved most about my college years is actually right here with me. And it’s not what, but it’s who. And it’s not just who, but it’s who I am rooted in.
If it weren’t for my beloved Lord, Franciscan would not have had any impact on my life, those four years wouldn’t have meant much and I would probably not be much different now as when I first stepped foot on campus.
But during my time there, I came to know and love the Lord. It’s not that I hadn’t known Him at all before, but that He used that beautiful place to reach me in a deeper way. And that is the reason that although I am 400 miles from home in a new city basically on my own, that my heart can be at peace. Because the same Lord who was in my friends whom I grew to love so deeply at Franciscan, the same Lord who I visited in the Port whenever I had the chance, the same Lord I came to know in the passionate teaching of my professors, is the same Lord who is with me now, is teaching me how to serve, is teaching me how to love the youth, is teaching me how to be a youth minister, and is coming to me and winning my heart anew every day in the Holy Eucharist.
And this is making me realize even more that the Lord loves me enough that He gave me the chance to grow in such an intense way for four years at one of the best schools in the nation, but then loves me enough to call me out from that mountaintop and go out to meet His children who haven’t met Him yet. That the Lord trusts me enough to take part in His work of love. That the Lord desires to be united intimately with my soul every single day, at every single moment, even though I do a terrible job of loving Him, choosing Him, and thinking of Him. That I have a Lord who is the Bridegroom of my soul and while I came to know that reality while I was on that little campus on the hill, that that reality is being realized more every day here in my wilderness with Him.
I rejoice for my friends and all those students I don’t know who have the chance to grow at Franciscan this year, and I rejoice that I have the chance to grow in the newness and to continue to learn to love every day.
The Lord is good and HIs love is real, and He will never cease to invite us into His Heart.