Austria Adventures: The time is now

ELOISA GUTIERREZ
AUSTRIA CORRESPONDENT

In our first week of the semester we were taken on a tour around Gaming, Austria. At that time Europe was our next adventure and a Carthusian monastery our temporary home. As we returned to the Kartause, I looked around at the snow-covered Alps and wondered if I could ever live in Europe, and if so, where. However, before I could say much further, I heard a firm voice say, “Wait. Right here. Right now.” In the midst of this Easter season I have come to realize in a new way how our Catholic Christian identity must completely govern the “right here” and the “right now.”

We began our semester with a social in the Kartause ballroom, the “Prälatensaal.” It was a time for reconnecting with Franciscan friends and meeting transient students who were joining us in the semester-long Austrian Program. We did not know each other well, but we were all assured that this semester would change our lives.

A few days ago, we were in the same room, wearing traditional Austrian garb, dancing traditional Austrian dances and sharing one another’s company. The night became especially memorable when the guest folk dancers began their eclectic routines with slap-dancing, mock fights, shouting and a man playing an accordion.

I like to think that our time together was a very small preview of our heavenly home. The familiar faces, shared faith and carefree celebration brought a subtle sense of heaven to earth. We all had endured a semester of struggles and fears. But because of this we grew as we surrendered, letting God conquer a new part of our hearts. The world may get smaller when you travel, but when you are exploring it on pilgrimage, love forces you to make more room for God in your own heart.

Nothing could have reinforced the growth of this semester more than the celebration of the Triduum. Those who served on a mission over the 10-day Easter break were struck by God’s glory in the fruits of their labors, seen and unseen. Those who traveled on their own or stayed behind were also offered new opportunities to trust. Easter break was a bit of a reminder of our surest reality: that every breath provides an opportunity to give God more.

I think a big problem at Franciscan occurs when we are obsessively wondering what our future vocations are. Naturally, our college years are made for asking and giving answers to such questions, but when we are so consumed with understanding the big picture, we can often distract ourselves from surrender, the only way to do the Lord’s will.

God will not judge us for what we did for the world, for the Church or for our hometown. He will ask us what we did for him. We can work for the world but not serve God. We can work for the Church but turn our backs on our Father. We can do good in our hometown but forget to love our neighbor. “If I have a faith that can move mountains but do not have love, I have nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2).

When we surrender to love, we surrender to God. We can forget about the future and our past so long as we look for God in the present, so long as we offer our hearts in love in the present. God opens and closes doors. Still, in every instant our fretting and worry must be conquered by our “fiat,” giving him our hearts as we are called. Not in the future, not in the past, but right here and right now.