Natalie Arndt '18 offered at the Salesian Community Mass on Sunday, Oct 15th.
"Do everything in a spirit of gentleness and fidelity, thinking of attaining your goal in God's time not your own." - Jane de Chantal
Contemplating fidelity, or faithfulness, I can't help but start with faithfulness to God. Growing up, I fit all the definitions of a "cradle Catholic." As the youngest in a family of seven, we were just enough children to fill a pew and our week was hallmarked by 5:30 Mass and dinner every Sunday.
Balancing sports, tutoring and play practices with daily chores, a large portion of my childhood was spent in the backseat of my mother's Honda Pilot. This time spent was certainly not my own, in a family there is no such thing as a personal schedule, just the give and take of sacrifice and love. People say that singing is "praying twice" and if that's true, boy did we pray, so in a way this was God's time too. To make the claim a little more valid the sound track of choice alternated between Les Miserables and the iconic 70's rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. I personally always had an affinity towards singing the part of Judas because let's face it, he had the best solos .
Despite my mother's consistent and valiant efforts to present to us the depth and beauty of the Church, my first two years of high school were marked with a not so healthy dose of teenage cynicism towards faith. Religion was more of a going through the motions than letting the motion of the Holy Spirit work through me. This all changed my summer entering into junior year during World Youth Day in Krakow. For the first time I poured out my soul in confession, a task made easier by this priests speaking only German. But the legitimacy of the absolution he assured me in the few words of English he seemed to know, and beyond this I felt confirmation in the revolution of my own heart I experienced. Maybe those years of passionately singing Judas' melodramatic tunes had subconsciously given me a greater understanding of man's and my own need for mercy than I had ever known. The culmination of this revolution of heart was on my knees in the providentially named Campus Misericordiae of "Field of Mercy". Here I heard the words of Pope Francis urging us to quite literally take the hands of our brothers and sisters, to begin global unity within our immediate communities and within our own hearts.
Fingers interlaced with school friends and strangers I realized that faith, our fidelity to Jesus, can not be insular. If I was to be faithful to God, I needed to be faithful to his creation. So inherent to our personhood is the need for genuine encounter with others. In my daily life I try to speak and act towards friends and strangers with this purpose in mind, to respect their dignity but also to meet that need in all of us for love. This is where the gentleness comes in, genuine compliments, a smile to strangers we often brush past, little notes left on the bulletin board of the hall of Founders -- in the words of our Salesian theme for the year "heart speaking to heart."
Part of this fidelity to others demands a fidelity to self. To truly give yourself to another, you must first know what you are giving, you must know who you are. Like any other teenager or any person really, I struggle to create a concrete perception of self. While hobbies and relationships inform personhood they are not equivalent to it. In this light what it means to be human is solely to exist, but in the light of God it means something else.
Our ultimate goal is unity, unity with ourselves, unity with others and unity with God. Rather than asking who we are, we must ask whose we are. Through this we reveal our true identity as a child of God. But in my own fallibility and in my humanness, I am capable of understanding the full manifestation of this truth. And I believe this truly attests to the difference between God's time and our own. With our limitations on this earth and to borrow from Cinderella we must simply "have courage and be kind" and have faith in the Lord to do the rest.