As I was falling into my bed last night, a thought entered into my mind, "I'm exhausted. God will certainly understand if I don't pray tonight. After all, I've been working for Him all day." But yesterday was one of those days when even the exhaustion felt like a gift. At the end of a day like that, I needed to pray--even if briefly and with little coherency! Just as I thought that, I received a text from a friend and coworker about prayer. It was just an added bonus to an already magnificent day.
Yesterday was the first day of a new year at the BU Catholic Center, and it was a great day. After a relatively cool month of August, our first Sunday of the year--the last day of August--was oppressively humid and hot. The un-airconditioned chapel was sweltering. It may have been an opportune moment to preach briefly. But, I just couldn't take that opportunity! The readings were just so great that I had to preach. We had Jeremiah saying, "You duped me O Lord!" We had St. Paul telling us not to be conformed to this age but rather be renewed by the transformation of our minds. And, we had our Lord teaching us that the way of discipleship is always the way of the Cross. Those are words that have to be preached!
After Mass, I was happy to greet returning students and welcome new students. There was a large group of exchange students from various Spanish speaking countries. They were really so joyous and interested in things. It was great to meet them and I hope to gather with them soon.
After Mass, we went to lunch at one of the University dining halls. Although there were many choices, the intern said, "Oh look! The salad bar is open. Maybe we should get a salad." That was his way of pointing out that the summer was now over and it was time to reverse the curse of the weight gains that I've made over the past two months. A salad it was. About fifteen of us sat at a table and dined together. FOCUS Missionaries, students, the Intern, and me. It was a great a lunch, followed by a visit from some recent BU graduates who are now in the seminary. They just finished their beginning of the year retreat and were out and about for the day.
At 6pm, we were back to the chapel for Mass. I didn't think it possible, but it was hotter at 6pm than it had been at the 12:30. Again, a great crowd of students for Mass. As we poured out of the chapel after Mass, there were the FOCUS Missionaries outside with Freeze Pops. That may have been the most ingenious idea ever! Wow, did that feel good!
After Mass, we had "ambassador training." A solid group of returning students meet together and discuss how to welcome and engage new students. The evening was organized and run by the students, our Intern, and our FOCUS Missionaries. I am always impressed by their organization and dedication.
After that meeting, there was another meeting. The Pastoral Board--students elected by their peers--met with the Intern and me to discuss upcoming events and to plan for the year. It was--happily--a brief meeting.
Besides all of that, the day was punctuated by hearing a good number of confessions, some good-natured bantering--live and via text, and just catching up with a lot of people whom I haven't seen all summer. Thankfully, the 10pm Mass doesn't start until next Sunday, so I got to be home by 10pm last night. When I arrived, I ate some dinner quickly, chatted with my housemates, and fell into bed.
Today, I'm moving a little bit slowly! Later on, we have Mass together, a retreat planning meeting with our interns and student retreat team, and then an evening scavenger hunt as part of our first week events.
One of the great joys of being at a Newman Center is that I get to spend the majority of my time with the students. The exhaustion I felt last night was partly from having a full day of activities and from the oppressive heat. But, there was also a sweetness to this kind of tired. It was the kind of tired you get when your heart is moved by the power and goodness of Christ. It was the kind of tired that comes from from being caught up in something that is beyond what you could ever accomplish or build. It's the kind of tired that makes you awestruck by the witness and love of those with whom you are surrounded. I was wiped out yesterday not because the work that I did was laborious. I was wiped out yesterday because Christ poured into my heart a love that is beyond my natural capacity. I was wiped out because the Lord--in His Mercy for me--allows me to live the priesthood in the midst of His people. As Psalm 16 says, "He has put into my heart a marvelous love for the faithful ones who dwell in his land." This marvelous love is sweetly exhausting.