For the first time since spring, we must look at the trees without leaves. We must cope with the fact that our NFL team might not make the playoffs this year. As a student, we stare right down the barrel of numerous weighty assignments and the ominous thought of upcoming finals. These struggles, in some way or another, plague everyone. They fatigue the mind and body, and they can make it easy to forget the fundamental Christian virtue of charity.
Here are some basic tips for not losing sight of what is really important in life during trying times like those before winter.
As always, keep your prayer life strong and active. While your mind may wander incessantly about the present events, remember that being in the presence of God still brings grace into your life.
A good technique to begin prayer time is to simply repeat the simple prayer, “Jesus,” over and over again. The Catechism says that “The name of Jesus is at the heart of Christian prayer” (435). Saying his name brings us directly into His presence no matter what our state of mind is. Throughout the day when any temptations or frustrations plague us, we can repeat His name over and over again in order to refocus our lives. It has never failed me.
Remember to live in the present; worries about what is to come compound the stress of each day unnecessarily.
The best way to do this is to increase your hospitality. No matter how busy we are, if we continue to acknowledge the presence of Christ in our neighbor, order can be maintained. It does not entail great and extravagant deeds - simply listening to someone rant for a few minutes or taking the time to compliment someone’s new hairdo work quite well. These simple expressions allow us to recognize others and escape the heavy focus we place on ourselves in a very profound way.
Recently canonized Holy Cross brother, St. Andre Bessette, is a fantastic intercessor for this intention. He lived his life as a humble doorkeeper who loved everyone who approached him. Through his little acts of kindness, people experienced conversions and miracles in their lives upon meeting him. God is so often waiting to reveal Himself to others through us if we just let Him.
Finally, respond to what the world throws at you as a child.
Do not be afraid to be vulnerable with friends or family. Take time for recreation and keep holy the Sabbath. An afternoon of finger-painting can really do wonders. Revisit fairy-tales that used to enthrall and inspire you. Make snow angels and snowmen if possible. When we do these little things, we do not let our lives become too serious, making joy much easier to express.
With these three basic joys, received through prayer, hospitality and living life with the wonder of a child, charity will begin to pervade our daily life. By nature, the joy we have must spread. Ultimately, it will lead us to a more satisfying fall and prepare us for Christmas.
When December rolls around we will be less afraid to express that we still believe in Santa Claus. This enables us to fully rest in the joy of Jesus’ birth and truly be happy to receive whatever “gifts” God throws at us this year.
Sean McPherson is a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame, where he is studying chemical engineering and theology.