It was May 2017, the night before the last day of finals, and I was exhausted. My week had consisted of stress, uncertainty, and daily ventures to the empty classrooms at the Newman Center to study harder than I ever had in my life. On this Thursday night, I slammed my computer shut and decided deadlines were stupid. My brain was fried, and my climbing into my bed seemed to be the only possible solution to saving my exams. Like I said, rough week.
But before I could gather my things and head home to the welcome comfort of my twin XL bed, my friend Abbey arrived at the Newman Center with a heavy heart, seeking conversation. All thoughts of my cozy comforter dissipated as I listened intently to her fears of moving back home for the summer and living her faith by herself. I, too, was terrified of the challenges of the upcoming summer– nervous about moving back home, being separated from my best friends, and continuing my faith journey away from the Newman Center. Abbey and I agreed that over the past year, this place had become our rock.
We lived together at our sorority house, and Newman was nothing more than a hop, skip, and a jump down the street. During Lent last spring, both Abbey and I had committed to making morning visits to start our days. At first those mornings were really hard for me, but the more time I spent with Jesus in the beautiful silence, the more excited I was to go to bed at night just so I could wake up early and do it all again. Those forty days were the best Lent of my life.
I was finally given a taste of what a real relationship with Jesus looks like. It was raw, it was vulnerable, and it was perfectly imperfect.
Abbey and I finally decided that the best thing we could do for ourselves on that overwhelming night was give the rest of our worries to God and just go to sleep. The door to the chapel was on our way out, so we stepped in to say goodnight and beg for any last-minute graces that might save us. As we walked in, the church was absolutely silent, but not five minutes later our dear Father Mills appeared, making his evening rounds of turning out the lights and locking the doors. Usually he would have asked us to head home, but we probably looked pretty pathetic, so he just smiled and told us to lock the door on our way out. An incredible feeling washed over me as the last of the lamps clicked off. We sat in this incredible darkness, a fresh energy washing over me as I gazed at the massive stained glass window of Jesus on His heavenly throne surrounded by some of His very best friends: the saints.
Abbey and I didn’t sit in a pew, we collapsed on the floor right in front of the altar, closer than most people dare to venture. And then we sang. We sang the songs our hearts had been longing to let out, the joys of that semester, the stress of that week, and the fear of losing it all over the summer. We stayed until 3am listening to the sounds of our own voices ring through the high, arched ceilings of the empty chapel. When we finally decided it was time to leave, we were full. No more fear, no more stress, just full.
I had never felt so at peace.
When I think of what the Newman Center means to me, I think of that night. It makes me smile when I contemplate the way Jesus worked in my heart. The peace didn’t end after that night, either. This summer has been full of trial and growth, questions and even a few answers. Living at home, my relationship with my parents has become stronger than I could have hoped, and my siblings and I have discovered a new friendship with each other. Although I so anticipate returning to the Newman Center, these last few months of summer have been amazing.
I had gone to Catholic school my entire life, and a part of me thought that was enough. My parents paid for me to learn about the Catholic faith, and I thought it ended there. I went on every school retreat and paid attention in religion class. But a few months after returning from the SEEK 2017 Conference last January, I realized I can’t rely on those things to sustain my faith. I went to that conference hoping I would hear the thundering voice of God that would change my heart, but instead I got silence. I had never felt more blocked from God than I did the night of Adoration when everyone around me seemed to feel His Presence. I was jealous, I was angry, and I was confused. However, Jesus had a plan for me the whole time. He knew that my heart wouldn’t be changed in an instantaneous encounter, and so he showed me that I must learn to seek Him daily. That’s how He worked in me, starting with that Lent, long after my friends and I returned home from SEEK.
I would not be where I am without the Newman Center. It’s the place I can come in the morning before the rest of campus has woken up, where I can go to Mass at 10pm because Father Matya and Father Mills understand just what it’s like to be a busy college kid, and where I can plop down in front of the altar with my best friend, singing my heart out until three in the morning.
The Newman Center is my home, my rock. With its shining bell tower constantly watching over the whole of campus, it is our lighthouse.
God bless, Alli
Alli Davis is a sophomore from Lincoln studying Journalism and Advertising/Public Relations.
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