Finding Spirituality at a Public College

By Michelle Sullivan

UnknownIt was the second week of college and I felt like something was out of place. Other than being a totally new world and being 300 miles from home, it felt like something else was missing from my life. Although I knew I missed Mass for the last two weekends, I did not know that that would be the reason attributed to my out-of-place feeling. I then realized I did not get to go to Mass and it had been months since I had last missed Mass. I had gone to a catholic elementary school, middle school, and high school and felt so displaced in college. I came from a family that was so passionate about spirituality and expanding our faith together. However, I was always the most religious in my family, constantly motivating my six person family to go to church on Sundays. It was scary though, I did not want to go to a church by myself even if I were to find one. I did not know how to find a church buddy that would want to make that commitment of making it to Mass every Sunday. And the thought of being labeled as a Christian club junkie terrified me. After my Intro to Psychology class ended that day, I went directly up to my teacher, not even knowing what religion she celebrated, if any, and asked her how I could fulfill the hole I had in my heart for my faith in a public school. She led me to some crazy ideas of how to fill this void, and I would love to share them with all of you.

Here are some wonderful ways to reach out and expand on your faith when resources aren’t readily available like they are at private schools:

Reach out to Teachers

If you have a favorite teacher, they are your favorite teacher for a reason and will most likely be able to help and at the very least be able to listen to you. Teachers are full of connections and networks to help you feel fully at ease with your faith.

Join a Christian Club

By joining, there is no real commitment to hanging out with these people and doing things with them, and only if you want to. It also does not have to be distinctly a Christian Club, there are so many different versions of this now and clubs that go by different names and social missions but share that common theme of faith.

Reach out to Friends and Classmates4-2-4-mission-and-ministries

Although it is hard to talk about spirituality when you first start meeting people, it truly does wonders when you dig a little deeper with the person next door or someone you say hi to regularly. Everyone has a spiritual side but not everyone is willing to talk about it. You have nothing to lose by just digging deeper with someone. Ask them what their spiritual goals are, and how they want to accomplish them in college.

Join Organizations with a Social Mission

Although not everyone in these organizations are closely tied to a religious mission, a lot of these people have access to people who prioritize their faith and spirituality. When you start talking to these people, you get inspired and get connected.

Find a Church that is local and easily accessible

Sometimes the first venture to a Church is worth it because they have programs for youth and college students. From there, the possibilities are endless for you to find someone who shares a similar faith to you and who goes to the same university or college as you! There is nothing wrong with riding the bus to Church! And who knows, you might make a friend with a car or make friends that want to ride the bus with you too!

Kids-Yoga-665x385Join Meditation Sessions

A lot of colleges have a new trend of meditation. What an awesome way to meet people but get to meditate as well! Meditation puts you at ease and peace and is a great way to get in tune with your spiritual side especially for those days when you cannot make it to a Church to express it.

In the end, it is about reaching out to sources that might not have anything to do with spirituality or religion, but trust me, it all helps in the end!

Good luck my spiritual collegiate!

Michelle is a junior at UC Santa Barbara in California.

A Love Quiz

By Maleny Quiroz

Call me silly, because I am, but when I take interest in a guy I look for signs to see if he likes me. “Oh he looked at me in a certain way, what does that mean? He told me blah blah blah, does that mean that he likes me or is he just trying to be nice?” But of course, with my very limited knowledge about the male mind, I investigate elsewhere to decode this “love” puzzle: online quizzes, videos, and articles.

Why do these feelings encapsulate us so much to the point of turning to silly quizzes to look for approval? Perhaps it’s the longing of feeling loved, and not just being loved by chance because you just happen to belong to some family and they’re supposed to love you, but because they choose to love you. While there’s nothing wrong with feeling like this (oh c’mon I know I’m not the only one!), the danger comes in focusing on this certain person, or on those feelings, so much that you fail to see the love that already exists in your life. Yes, there’s the love that comes from family, friends, but there are also other types of love and sacrifice that might not be as obvious to us.

What about the people that make door hinges, the people that repair air conditioners, the people that clean bathrooms, the people that suffer for us to have something as simple as pants, shoes, food? I feel like we rarely ever think about these people, and while they might just be making door hinges/repairing air conditioners/cleaning bathrooms, etc. for the sake of having something to eat, rather than for the love of actually working for that, in a way they exhibit a sort of love for us by doing some unrecognized job that allows us to live life comfortably. This reminds me of Rise Against’s Prayer of the Refugee video, that shows how much people suffer in order to provide us with things we rarely ever express our gratitude about.

I know what you’re probably thinking, “Whoa . . . ok so what do liking someone and people that make things that we take for granted have in common?” The answer: love, or more precisely the love that we long for and the love that we are blind to. Then there’s the love of God. Do we long for His love? I dare to say that we all do, even, or perhaps, especially those that are blind to it. While many times I recognize that I fail to notice all the love and effort that people put into making or doing things we don’t pay much attention to, I wouldn’t say that I’m blind to the love of God . . . but maybe unknowingly I don’t see all of its splendor because I’m too busy thinking about what could happen in the future. Let me paint this image with two experiences that happened recently:

A few days ago I went to Eucharistic adoration and I was pretty stressed out and confused. I’ve been mostly asking God for guidance because I don’t know what to do with my potato-y* love feelings and I don’t want to lose my focus on Him. I look up and what do I see? The Eucharist in all its splendor. “You want a sign to know that you’re loved? Here it is!” Jesus, you know us too well, you didn’t just love us in the past, but you continue to offer yourself to us so that we may live in you and you in us. First you turn into a human to be among us, then you turn into a tiny piece of bread so that you can live in us!


Second experience: During the last Spanish Mass at our school the priest told a fictitious story that illuminated the message of the homily. He talked about a monastery that was really well known and lively. Lots of people would make pilgrimages to get there and they would always have many young people that would want to join to become monks. Then there came a time when people stopped going and only a few monks and priests were left. They were very sad and confused, so one of them went to talk to a guru to ask him what was going on in the monastery. The guru told the monk that what he lacked was wisdom, that God was among them. So he told the rest of the monks and they all started wondering, “Who could it be? Could God be in Brother Andrew? Nah he’s too grouchy. How about Brother Simon? Oh I don’t know about him . . .” While the wondering continued, they started to act better towards one another, they started to radiate a joy that would attract people to come and join again. Ultimately we realize that God wasn’t one of them, but He was indeed in all of them.

Now everything comes together and I begin to a see a peek of what God wants me, or perhaps all of us, to understand. Love from a romantic relationship enhances us and should help us come closer to God, but God’s love is the only one that can fulfill our hearts and our longings. So tonight instead of taking silly quizzes to see if this potato-y boy likes me, I’ll go to Mass to allow God’s love in me, through the Eucharist and the people, so that I can go out to the world and love through God.

*For those that don’t know me, I use the word potato for everything or anything that I can’t describe with words

Un examen de amor

Por Maleny Quiroz

Llámame tonta, porque lo soy, pero cuando me interesa un muchacho busco señales para ver si le gusto. “Oh, me vio de cierta manera, ¿qué significa eso? Me dijo, bla, bla, bla, ¿eso significa que le gusto o simplemente esta tratando de ser amable?” Pero claro, con mi conocimiento tan limitado sobre la mente masculina, investigo en otros lugares para decodificar este “rompecabezas de amor”: en exámenes que te dicen si le gustas en línea, videos y artículos.

¿Por qué nos encapsulan tanto estos sentimientos hasta el punto de recurrir a exámenes de amor tontos en busca de aprobación? Tal vez es el anhelo de sentirse amado, y no sólo ser amado por casualidad, porque perteneces a alguna familia y se supone que te tienen que amar, sino porque alguien elige amarte. Si bien no hay nada malo con sentirse así (¡sé que no soy la única!), el peligro viene en centrarse en esta persona, o en esos sentimientos, tanto que uno no pueda ver el amor que ya existe en nuestras vida. Sí, hay amor que viene de familia y amigos, pero también hay otros tipos de amor y sacrificios que tal vez no sean tan obvios para nosotros.

¿Qué hay de las personas que hacen las bisagras de las puertas, las personas que reparan acondicionadores, las personas que limpian los baños, las personas que sufren para que tengamos algo tan simple como pantalones, zapatos, comida? Siento como que rara vez pensamos acerca de estas personas, y a pesar de que sólo estén haciendo bisagras/reparación de aire acondicionado/ limpieza de baños, etc., para poder tener algo de comer, en lugar de por amor al arte, de una manera expresan una especie de amor por nosotros al hacer un trabajo no reconocido que nos permite vivir la vida cómodamente. Esto me recuerda al video de la canción Prayer of the Refugee de Rise Against, que muestra la cantidad de personas que sufren con el fin de proveernos cosas por las cuales casi nunca expresamos nuestra gratitud.

Se que es lo que probablemente estas pensando, “Guau… pero que tienen que ver el hecho de que te guste alguien y la gente que hace cosas que subestimamos?” La respuesta: el amor, o mejor dicho el amor que anhelamos y el amor que somos incapaces de ver. Luego está el amor de Dios. ¿Anhelamos su amor? Me atrevo a decir que todos lo hacemos, incluso, o quizás sobre todo, los que son ciegos a él. Si bien muchas veces reconozco que no alcanzo a darme cuenta de todo el amor y el esfuerzo que la gente pone en hacer cosas a las que no prestamos mucha atención, no diría que estoy ciega al amor de Dios… pero tal vez sin saberlo, no veo todo su esplendor porque estoy demasiado ocupada pensando en lo que podría suceder en el futuro. Déjame pintar esta imagen con dos experiencias que sucedieron recientemente:

Hace unos días fui a la adoración eucarística y estaba bastante estresada y confundida. He estado sobre todo pidiéndole a Dios que me guie, porque no sé qué hacer con mis sentimientos tontos de amor y no quiero perder mi enfoque en Él. Miro hacia arriba y ¿qué veo? La Eucaristía en todo su esplendor. “¿Quieres una señal para saber que eres amada? ¡Aquí está!” Jesús, tú nos conocen demasiado bien, no sólo nos amaste en el pasado, pero sigues ofreciéndote a nosotros para que podamos vivir en ti y tú en nosotros. Primero te conviertes en un ser humano para estar entre nosotros, y después te conviertes en un pequeño trozo de pan para que puedas vivir en nosotros!

“Cuando ves el crucifijo entiendes cuanto Jesús nos amo en ese entonces. Cuando ves la Sagrada Hostia, entiendes cuanto Jesús te ama ahorita.” –Beata Madre Teresa de Calcuta

“Cuando ves el crucifijo entiendes cuanto Jesús nos amo en ese entonces. Cuando ves la Sagrada Hostia, entiendes cuanto Jesús te ama ahorita.” –Beata Madre Teresa de Calcuta

Segunda experiencia: Durante la última misa en español en nuestra escuela, el sacerdote contó una historia ficticia que iluminó el mensaje de la homilía. Habló de un monasterio que era muy bien conocido y alegre. Había mucha gente que hacía peregrinaciones para llegar allí y siempre tenían muchos jóvenes que querían unirse para convertirse en monjes. Entonces llegó un momento en que las personas dejaron de ir y sólo unos pocos monjes y sacerdotes quedaron. Estaban muy tristes y confundidos, por lo que uno de ellos fue a hablar con un gurú para preguntarle qué estaba pasando en el monasterio. El gurú le dijo al monje que lo que le faltaba era sabiduría, que Dios estaba entre ellos. Así que se lo dijo al resto de los monjes y todos comenzaron a preguntarse: “¿Quién podría ser? ¿Podría Dios estar en el hermano Andrew? No creo, es demasiado gruñón. ¿Qué tal el hermano Simón? Ay no sé…” Mientras que las dudas continuaron, empezaron a actuar mejor uno hacia el otro, y comenzaron a irradiar una alegría que atraía a la gente a que vinieran a unirse de nuevo. Ultimadamente, nos damos cuenta de que Dios no era uno de ellos, pero que Él estaba ciertamente en todos ellos.

Ahora todo se junta y empiezo a ver un pequeño vistazo de lo que Dios quiere que yo, o quizás todos nosotros, entendamos. El amor de una relación romántica nos realza y ​​debería ayudarnos a acercarnos más a Dios, pero el amor de Dios es el único que puede llenar nuestros corazones y nuestros anhelos. Así que esta noche en lugar de tomar exámenes tontos para ver si le gusto a este muchacho, voy ir a misa para dejar que el amor de Dios entre en mí, a través de la Eucaristía y la gente, para que yo pueda salir al mundo y amar a través Dios.

Be Still

By Jenni Sigl

I have come to the conclusion that silence is underrated. On a daily basis I find myself moving through this hectic world, going 100 miles per hour, constantly surrounded by noise. That noise comes in many forms including but not limited to technology, social media, people, work responsibilities, extracurricular activities, and obligations.

So often silence is perceived as being negative. We associate silence with loneliness or boredom, when in fact I think what we could all use is a little more silence and stillness in our lives. We get caught up in the day-to-day noise that surrounds us that we forget the refreshing and cathartic nature of enjoying a few moments of pure, still silence.

be-stillA few weeks ago I went to a coffee shop to meet someone. The person I was meeting had to run after about a half an hour and I had a little extra time before class, so I decided to stay at the coffee shop. I had not brought my phone in, so I decided to just sit there. Revolutionary, right? Just sitting and thinking. No phone, computer, tablet, book, or magazine in hand. The first couple of moments felt a little awkward, but then I got used to the stillness . . . and I loved it.

This experience really got me thinking about how much time I spend enjoying a few moments of serenity and silence each week. I have come to realize that the answer is not enough. At the end of the week on Friday afternoon when I have finished my last class, I feel great knowing that I am (usually) free of any obligations for a just a little while. I usually head back to my room and read a book or watch some television because that is how I have trained myself to relax.

But, what if instead I used those moments to enjoy some silence, like I did in the coffee shop that day? What if I found a peaceful space where I did not bring my phone or a newspaper or a computer or a book and I just sat alone with my thoughts and decompressed that way?

I have decided to challenge myself to enjoy more moments of silence. Being someone who loves planning, I am always thinking ahead. I am going to make a conscious effort not to think or worry about future plans in these moments and rather simply be conscious of the present.

In Psalm 46:10, God says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” That sums it up pretty perfectly. A song that kept coming to mind while I was writing down these thoughts is (appropriately) titled Be Still, by an artist named Rachel Barrentine. The lyrics are the perfect words to leave you with.

Be still,

My soul,

Be still,

My soul,

For the Lord is God and He is in control,

Be still,

My soul,

Be still,

My soul,

For the Lord is God and He is on the throne,

Into His humble heart,

Into His holy hands,

Will I surrender,

Will I submit my plans,

And right here,

Right now,

In this moment I will,

Be still

Photo source:

Where Does God Fit Into My Future?

By Levina Robin

graduation-hats1As a senior in her final quarter of college, the word graduation seems to be among the most used words coming from my mouth and everyone else’s mouth as well. Sometimes it’s frustrating and yields a negative conversation in which you get absolutely nowhere. Sometimes, just the fact that graduation is two months away gets reiterated throughout the day. But sometimes, on a rare, magical occasion, you get a little bit more clarity on what you could do with your life.

To be completely honest, I have absolutely no direction when it comes my career path. I thought I knew what I wanted for much of my past. Until now, when absolutely no career in the world makes sense. There’s this whole dilemma of fate and letting God shine his plans through to you, the idea that what is meant to be will be. And what about coming up with a goal of your own?

So here are three key things to keep in mind that I learned when it comes to the future and intertwining the Holy Spirit into it.

It’s okay not to have a clear goal in mind.

I don’t care how old you are, sometimes you have no plan and we have a tendency to view that negatively.

“It’s messing people up, this social pressure to ‘find your passion’ and ‘know what it is you want to do,’” Sally Coulter said. “It’s perfectly fine to just live your moments fully, and marvel as many small and large passions, many small and large purposes enter and leave your life. For many people there is no realization, no bliss to follow, no discovery of your life’s purpose. This isn’t sad, it’s just the way things are. Stop trying to find the forest and just enjoy the trees.”

For now, just think of the ways you want to live your life, not necessarily a specific career path. Why not enjoy the lovely trees and people that God has planted into our lives?

God doesn’t have to do all the hard work himself.

A lot of us have it in our heads that what is meant to be will be, and that God will lead you to where you are. I believe that God and you have to pair up to make things happen but both can work hard. Trust me, God is already working hard to make sure you are happy. It is okay to not have clear goals, but it is not okay to sit back all day and do absolutely nothing hoping God will save you. Work hard with all the little things you do, and do what makes you happy because God will reward you along the way.

You’re allowed to float or swim, depending on where you are in life.

“And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal,” Hunter S. Thompson said when asked to give life advice. “It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this!”

We are messed up when we think our only option is to swim towards something. It is okay to not have something to swim towards, and float for a little while.

. . . . .

But here’s the thing, at the end of the day, there is no real destination. As cliché as it sounds, life in the end is a journey. And I hope you enjoy to the fullest the pit stops it has to offer. Safe travels, my friends!

Photo source:


Going Through the Motions

By Marlene Schultz

single genuflection

When I was converting to Catholicism, I always thought that genuflecting was like the secret brofist/ handshake that Catholics shared apart from the rest of society. People walk, talk, lie down, sit, and stand every day, but genuflecting – the act of dropping to one knee – was an inscrutable art form to me. I was vaguely aware that this motion was popularized by Tim Tebow, a religious football player, and dubbed “Tebowing,” but I mostly knew about it from my mother, a lapsed cradle Catholic. Occasionally I would attend a Mass for snits and giggles, and I was fascinated by how my mother quickly kneeled and crossed herself. I would try imitating my mother’s motions, only to wobble over like a fainting goat. Forget making the Sign of the Cross while genuflecting – I was blessed when I didn’t face-plant behind a senior citizen. After numerous practice sessions in front of a mirror, I finally became an expert at genuflecting… only for my mother to inform me that I was kneeling on the wrong knee. I scoured YouTube for tutorials on genuflecting, but I couldn’t find any that tediously demonstrated the mechanics for an uncoordinated penguin like me to understand.

But I had unknowingly been avoiding the true mystery – why did Catholics genuflect in the first place? It couldn’t just be some quaint meaningless custom that no one had a reason for. I was confused by how the parishioners at some churches genuflected, but other churches did not. Even my mother wasn’t sure why she genuflected. She was raised Catholic, but no one had ever told her why she was supposed to kneel at church. It was just something you were supposed to do, like shaking hands with strangers, or saying “bless you” after a sneeze. It was appropriate and polite, but perhaps it wasn’t necessary. That was probably why some Catholics had stopped genuflecting at many churches; there didn’t seem to be any tangible reason for the custom.

That feeling doesn’t avoid me. Even though I am now a baby Catholic firmly wrapped in the embraces of Holy Mother Church, sometimes I kneel only out of habit. I can pull out of genuflecting faster than a hyperactive toddler, and I am proud of the bruises on my knees after ten minutes of kneeling on a hard marble floor. I feel the numbness slipping into my mind, the forgetfulness. I have to keep asking myself – why do I genuflect? Do I keep the reason in my heart every time I bend my knee? Or will I let it become an instinctive habit, ready to be lost in my human frailty. Every time I lower myself to the ground, I am trying to show an act of reverence. But who is that reverence intended for? I could only uncover the answer by going to Mass.

Even to this day, I constantly have to renew the true devotion behind genuflection. Last Sunday marked the beginning of Passiontide, the final two weeks of Lent. Every moment of the Church’s liturgical calendar is sweeping dramatically towards the Cross and the Resurrection, but that Sunday was a chance to take a deep breath. I lingered after Mass in the church, and I slowly started to take another look around me. The electric overhead lights and candelabras were turned off, so you could better see the sunlight gently raining through the stained glass windows. It illuminated the incense spread like a cloudy sea across the pews of my church. And there it was – deep in the sanctuary at the front of the church, behind the communion rail, up a threefold of steps, and resting upon the marble high altar – the reason! I could breathe anew. How could I have been so distracted?

A sanctuary lamp shone behind a small golden box. The box is like a house with doors, a roof, and small twisting columns on each side. But the little house, the Tabernacle, is not what we genuflect to. Every home has an occupant, someone living and waiting for you to acknowledge them when you enter into their home. Inside the Tabernacle, like in the ancient days of Judea and the time of Moses, is housed the Holy of Holies – the Divine Presence. Don’t look at me weirdly, but yes – the Tabernacle houses the Real Presence of Christ, body and soul, under the appearance of bread. The Eucharist is consecrated at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and even when the Mass isn’t being said, the Presence of the Lord is still there for us. The sanctuary lamp is always on, and he is beaming out from the veiled Tabernacle, a lighthouse in the dark. This isn’t a symbol. I wouldn’t kneel because of a symbol.

genuflection 2Like knights swearing fealty to their lord, we pay homage to our King. We genuflect because it is rather impractical to
throw ourselves prostrate on the floor every time we pass in front of our Sovereign Lord, Creator, and Master of the Universe. The traffic jams in church would be indescribable. So we kneel.* As Moses cast his sandals off before
the Divine Presence in the Burning Bush, external signs of reverence must align with our internal devotions. But we must never lose sight of the love that spurs us into action, even to something as simple as genuflecting! I let myself get so obsessed with the motions of an action, that I lose sight of the One whom I intended it for. He always knows how to sweep me off my feet and onto my knees, but I know how quickly I want to forget his gentle reminders. We must never forget whose house we are in.

*Unless you’re an Eastern Catholic and don’t do that genuflecting thang. In that case, thou shalt bow. And stand. And stay standing. Sitting is for the weak.

Marlene is a chicken in disguiseMarlene Schultz is a sophomore at Evergreen Valley College with a vague intention of majoring in Art. She doesn’t believe in extracurricular activity, but Marlene loves singing (badly) Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony in her church’s choir, hugging her pet chickens, drinking gallons of English black tea, and suffering. Do not speak of liturgical dance to Marlene, or she will taunt you a second time.

God, What Do You Want Me to Do?

By Maleny Quiroz

Sometimes I just don’t know what to do. I want to do God’s will, but what is that? Yes, there are many Bible passages that mention parts of God’s will for us, such as being grateful at all times and being sanctified (1 Thessalonians 5:18, 1 Thessalonians 4:3), but is God’s will limited to that? I want to know everything about God’s will, but I love surprises, and at the same time I’m ridiculously impatient… oxymoron much? This comes to mind in multiple occasions: Is he the one God wants for me? Is that the school where God wants me to go? What do I do after I graduate from college? Decisions, decisions. Which reminds me of something a friend said yesterday: “Don’t you just wish God would leave post-it notes on walls with instructions of what to do?” While that would solve tons of problems, heartaches, and time of stress, it would get rid of all the beautiful mystery that is God and the life He gives us. But how can I know if I’m doing, or following, what God wants for me? Truth is, I can never know for sure, or as Thomas Merton says more eloquently:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

-Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Like Merton, I can’t face my perils alone. Shoot, who am I kidding? In all honesty, I can’t do anything alone at all, but it gives me strength to know that even Jesus said it himself:

I can’t do anything on my own… I do not seek my own will, but the will of the one who sent me. (John 5:30)

So in seeking the will of the one who sent me, I end up curled up in a ball because I still don’t know what to do… but God does, and that’s all that matters.

Dios, ¿qué quieres que haga?

Por Maleny Quiroz

A veces simplemente no sé qué hacer. Quiero hacer la voluntad de Dios, pero ¿qué es eso? Sí, hay muchos pasajes de la Biblia que hablan sobre partes de la voluntad de Dios para nosotros, como el ser agradecido en todo momento y ser santificados (1 Tesalonicenses 5:18, 1 Tesalonicenses 4: 3), pero ¿la voluntad de Dios está limitada a eso? Quiero saber todo acerca de la voluntad de Dios, pero me encantan las sorpresas, y al mismo tiempo soy ridículamente impaciente… medio contradictorio no? Esto viene a la mente en múltiples ocasiones: ¿Es él el que Dios quiere para mí? ¿Esa es la escuela a donde Dios quiere que vaya? ¿Qué hago después de graduarme de la universidad? Decisiones, decisiones. Lo cual me recuerda algo que una amiga dijo ayer: “¿No te gustaría que Dios dejara notas en las paredes con instrucciones de qué hacer?” Mientras que eso resolvería un montón de problemas, angustias, y tiempos de estrés, se desharía de todo lo bello del misterio que son Dios y la vida que Él nos da. Pero, ¿cómo puedo saber si estoy haciendo, o siguiendo, lo que Dios quiere para mí? La verdad es que nunca podré saber con seguridad, o como Thomas Merton diría más elocuentemente:

Mi Dios y Señor, no tengo ni idea de a dónde voy. No veo el camino delante de mí. No puedo saber con certeza dónde terminará. Tampoco me conozco realmente a mí mismo, y el hecho de que creo que estoy siguiendo tu voluntad no quiere decir que en realidad la estoy haciendo. Pero creo que el deseo de complacerte en realidad te complace. Y espero tener ese deseo en todo lo que esté haciendo. Espero que nunca vaya a hacer nada aparte de ese deseo. Y sé que si lo hago esto va a guiarme por el camino correcto, aunque yo no sepa nada al respecto. Entonces, confiaré siempre en ti aunque pueda parecer que me pierda y en la sombra de la muerte. No temeré, porque tú estás siempre conmigo, y no me dejaras enfrentar mis peligros solo.

-Thomas Merton, Pensamientos en soledad

Al igual que Merton, no puedo enfrentar a mis peligros sola. Chin, a quién estoy tratando de engañar? Con toda honestidad, no puedo hacer nada sola en lo absoluto, pero me da fuerza saber que incluso Jesús mismo lo dijo:

Yo no puedo hacer nada por mi cuenta… no busco mi voluntad, sino la voluntad del que me envió. (Juan 5:30)

Así que en la búsqueda de la voluntad del que me envió, termino acurrucada en forma de pelota porque todavía no sé qué hacer… pero Dios sí, y eso es todo lo que importa.

Navigating Privilege

By Jenni Sigl

PrivPersonal privilege is something that I had not formally acknowledged or really spent much time thinking about for most of my life. It is entirely possible that many people, myself included up until recently, are not even exactly sure what defining and navigating personal privilege entails. So, bear with me as I attempt to break it down and explain what it means in the context of my life.

I think it best to start at the beginning with a simple definition. The dictionary defines privilege as “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.” Though fairly simplistic, this is a good starting point. Privilege, or in most cases privileges, are certain rights or advantages that we inherently acquire. We did not earn them, but they have been given to us. Privilege can be based on your skin color, sex, geographic location, socioeconomic standing, sexual orientation, or any other factor that is a part of who you are.

Various personal privileges offer different advantages. For example, in today’s world, a man inherently has more personal privilege than a woman, a Caucasian more than a person of color, and so on.

With that said, there are a few things that are extremely important to understand about personal privilege. First, no, your personal privilege is not your fault. Second, it is well understood that you did not choose the personal privilege that is inherently a part of who you are. Third, you should not feel guilty or be ashamed of it because you did not choose it. And finally, yes, it is extremely important to acknowledge your personal privilege and meaningfully decided what it means in the context of your life.

A big part of navigating personal privilege is recognizing and acknowledging that privilege for what it is. One common example is that for many of us who grew up in the United States, our personal privilege has allowed us access to free primary and secondary education, which although we did not choose to have as an option, we nevertheless had it and were able to reap the benefits of it whereas in many places around the world, that opportunity simply does not exist.

Since this topic has been on my mind so much lately I have naturally been looking for real world applications for acknowledging my own personal privilege and understanding what it means in the context of my life. The example that continues to pop up in my mind is in relation to language.

Equality-and-JusticeI grew up in the United States in a home that spoke English. English
was always my favorite subject in school throughout my youth. My mastery of speaking, writing, and reading the English language has never been something that I have seen as an advantage, or privilege, up until very recently when I became friends with a woman who has lived in the United States for 13 years and cannot properly communicate in the predominant language spoken here.

As part of the Spanish class that I took this quarter, there was an experiential learning element integrated into the course. All of the students from my class went to a local elementary school for two hours a week and spent time talking and getting to know one of the parents of a child who attended the school.

The woman who I met with every week spoke solely Spanish. She understood some English from hearing it so often, but could speak very little. She knew certain words and fragmented phrases, but she by no means was an English-speaker. Talking with her and getting to know here over the last two and a half months sharpened my Spanish listening and speaking skills, but above all else, humbled me and allowed me to recognize where my personal privilege comes into play.

Yes, it is true that I did not choose to be born into an English-speaking home in a country where English is the predominant language. Yes, it is not my fault that I had the opportunity to attend schools where I was taught and learned how to master a language that is viewed as essential to know in this country. But yes, I accept and acknowledge that at the end of the day this is one of my personal privileges and it has helped me to do things that otherwise would not have been possible, and many people will never have the opportunity to do.

So at the end of all this, you might be left wondering, what exactly do I get out of accepting and acknowledging my personal privilege? The list is long, but it boils down to this. By accepting the fact that you have certain personal privileges that others do not, you have the opportunity to become a better human being. You have the opportunity to gain perspective about your community and beyond. The world will shift in a way that will make you more compassionate towards others and appreciate the life that you have been given.

*I would like to note that in this post I discuss one of the many ways in which I am privileged. There are of course many, many other personal privileges I possess and acknowledge.

UPDATED – Mar. 18 at 11:26 a.m.

As an addendum to this post, I’d like to include some thoughts that were inspired by a commenter below. Acknowledging personal privilege often becomes a simple matter of saying that we are “lucky.” Rather than just acknowledging personal privilege for the sake of doing so, I encourage all people to look for ways in which they can affect changes in their social circles and communities. Be that through conversations about privilege, discussing ways to combat it, or directly helping others who are less privileged, everyone has the opportunity to make a difference. Actions such as these have the potential to inspire a cultural shift towards compassion that our society desperately needs.

This online community is a space where constructive comments are always welcome. This is a space for conversations about important topics like this one and the Branches team encourages all of our readers to continue commenting and engaging using this space.