I serve as a Campus Minister at Boston College, overseeing a retreat program that invites students, through peer-facilitated accompaniment, to reflect on the movements of God’s love in their lives. I adore working with college students. Those four formative years spent guzzling from a fire hydrant of opportunity and growth are beautiful to witness, and it’s a profound joy to invite the latent potential that percolates beneath the surface of a student to emerge as they awaken to the power of their own inherent belovedness.
It also means I hold the delicate balance of the tension between where students are and where they are headed. So much of my work unfolds in liminal spaces. My vocation unfurls within the “now” and the “not yet.”
Surely, a liberal arts education grounded in the Catholic intellectual tradition is a freestanding good, and I don’t need to treat the work I do inviting students to become more attentive, more reflective, and more loving as a means to end. At its best, a Jesuit college experience is not only wonderful unto itself but also formative for the future. Indeed, “the measure of a Jesuit university lies not in what its students do, but who they become.”
My vocation unfurls within the “now” and the “not yet.”
I’d venture that this current Covid-19 moment is, likewise, a liminal space, though obviously a far more fraught one. Our present is a self-contained season of uncertainty wrought by a global pandemic on a scale heretofore unseen that awaits in hope the resurrection of “business as usual.” What once was will never be again. What will be is yet unseen, though the horizon surely beckons. The ground upon which we now stand is unfamiliar, charged, and if we allow it to be, wildly holy.
Though the threat of Covid-19 loomed in the periphery of my awareness for weeks before it arrived abruptly in my life in mid-March, I gave little thought to the impact of this virus and went about my life largely unaffected. I had branded 2020 as “my year of abundance.” My calendar boasted seven weddings, a godson’s baptism across the country, a major milestone for my retreat program, and plans to walk the Camino de Santiago in June. As a self-proclaimed raging extrovert who thrives off a bursting schedule, I was eager for my year to unfold in full, to celebrate with my loved ones, to feel the Spirit move through my abundant days.
And now, my calendar, my office, my beloved spaces of my barre studio, my favorite coffee shop, my neighborhood sidewalk, all once teeming with activity, sit largely empty, awaiting the arrival of a new reality freed from fear, danger, and disease.
I grieve the loss of this semester and the potential it held. My stomach drops when I imagine the weeks to come when hallways and quads across BC remain quiet, when I process cancelling and deconstructing the retreats I and so many worked all year to build, when I think of changed plans and deflated dreams and how this all looks so different than any of us would have anticipated just weeks ago. I meet with students virtually now, journeying alongside them as they mourn the loss of their routines, their plans, or even more poignantly, their senior year springs. Through pixels and strained wifi, we reckon through prayer and conversation what it means to end one’s college with the chaos of an evacuation rather than the pomp and circumstance of commencement. My heart breaks for friends as they hasten to reschedule their weddings, or prepare to potentially labor and give birth alone. More trivially, I lament the loss of life as I knew it as I pulse through barre routines in my living room and join work meetings from my dining room table. I miss handshakes, pedicures, lattes, and mornings where I have my home to myself and can listen to a podcast as I start my day in solitude. My most common habits have become longed-for luxuries.
Through pixels and strained wifi, we reckon through prayer and conversation what it means to end one’s college with the chaos of an evacuation rather than the pomp and circumstance of commencement.
And I recognize that I feel all of this from a place of immense privilege. My work does not force me to the frontlines of this crisis. I’m healthy, salaried, and sheltered. This reality is anxiety-ridden for me, but adaptable. I pray fervently for those who do not share my circumstances.
David Whyte, in his poem, “Everything is Waiting for You,” writes of “alertness” as “the discipline of familiarity.” I think now of the ways in which God was reaching for me in the practices I held close but took for granted. How holy is an unexpected encounter with a friend in the grocery store, how sacramental is lunch with a colleague, how sacred is a gathering of folks around a full table when we’re suddenly sensitive to how precious these experiences are? This forced Sabbath of lockdowns and sheltering in place has sloughed off any capacity for excess. I’ve been distilled to my spiritual scaffolding, and my soul is restless for the abundance that awaits in our resurrected reality.
My work tote bears a bold statement: “Let it be wild.” The saying is an homage to John O’Donahue and Meister Eckhart, whose writings on a “wild God” resonate with this broader season of my life. So much around me has felt so “wild” in these past couple of years, and it’s been a process of slowly liberating my expectations. And so it feels more intensely now. This time feels wild. Fear and uncertainty feel wild and stretch our notions of both possibility and grief.
So, too, then, is there space for love and grace to run wild. And I hope we let them. I can’t grasp that yet, but I know the horizon beckons. During these days when we’re unable to touch one another, perhaps there’s a wildness in reaching out to meet another’s woundedness in this liminal space. Bold love is always worth the risk. My mourning draws deeply from a well of abundant joy and energy that my life gives me. There’s a complicated gratitude in noticing, mourning, and hoping for that which gives life comfort and meaning. As we reckon with what is and what could have been, feel it all. Let it be wild.