July Newsletter: Finding God in All Things
- President's Post
- 2020 Summer Institute: Social Media Takeover
- Webinar Opportunity
- National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference
- July Blog: Francesca Leite, Fordham University
This month we are invited to find God in all things, and I want to begin my quest on a crowded highway in Northern Virginia. Living in the Washington, DC area means I am surrounded by six million neighbors, and we are all seeking to get to work and school on a limited set of freeways and bridges and historic streets. There is a great deal of beauty here, and also a great deal of congestion. Some days find me frustrated and anxious in all this traffic, impatient and inattentive to my surroundings, focused only on the next green light.
On my best days, though, I am able to look beyond the delays, and look into the faces of some other drivers – waiting on the Key Bridge, trying to merge on Interstate 395, or queuing up for a left turn out of my neighborhood. On those faces, I see the human experiences that testify to grace and redemption and love. I see joy in a phone call with an old friend, quiet reflection on a momentous day, a patient explanation to an upset toddler in the back seat, exasperation at the drivers in the next lane, and curiosity about the story they are hearing on their podcast. Beyond the drivers, I also see the purple blooms in wild flowers at the side of the road, and the orange light of a sunset gleaming off the highway ahead of me.
The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins has left us with a brief poem entitled “God’s Grandeur”, which begins with “The world is charged with the grandeur of God” and later contains the line “There lives the dearest freshness deep down things”. Hopkins never saw the Nissan Altimas and Toyota RAV 4s lined up in the way we might today. Still, he knew that the dearest freshness was found not just in museums and churches, but in the bushes growing by the side of the road, and in the mundane daily tasks and interactions of his neighbors.
This presents a challenge and an invitation to each of us. Do we walk through our ordinary world without being attentive, waiting to get to the “real” parts of our day, or do we seek the real on our highways, in line at the coffeeshop, or in the waiting room at the dentist’s office?
If we can seek our own “dearest freshness” on our morning commutes or in the tedious hours of our days, we are well-equipped to find God in our routine lives and familiar surroundings. On this quest, I wish you well and I thank you for the reflective, joyful, and attentive ways you approach your vocation in Jesuit higher education.
JASPA 2020 Programming Committee: Social Media Takeover!
Your JASPA 2020 Summer Institute Programming Committee is currently in Chicago working hard with our amazing Host Committee! Be sure to follow along on JASPA social media accounts as we explore the campus and begin to iron out details for what will undoubtedly be a critically engaging and developmental experience. Check out our handles below and stay tuned for some exciting updates in the coming week!
Putting our Mission in Action: An Introduction to JASPA
Join us for an online webinar on an introduction to the Jesuit Association of Student Personnel Administrators. Designed for new staff members at our Jesuit schools and staff interested in greater involvement in JASPA, this webinar will provide an overview of the opportunities for mission driven professional development and networking.
Wednesday, July 31st at 4 pm ET
Thursday, October 17 at 4 pm ET
To get your campus signed up, visit https://forms.gle/iYC1St8g5rJLDPE59
National Jesuit Student Leadrship Conference
Students from 25 Jesuit colleges and universities, as well as a delegation from St. John's College in Belize, are learning and leading at NJSLC 2019, generously hosted by our amazing colleagues at University of Detroit Mercy.
Follow along using the #NJSLC2019 hashtag on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!
July Blog: Finding God in All Things
I was so excited when Madeline reached out to ask me to write this month’s JASPA reflection!… until I realized I haven’t written an essay since I finished grad school in December, so thank you in advance for bearing with me.
So, how did we do? Amidst all of the pomp and circumstance (ha!) surrounding April and May, it is often difficult to take time for prayer, reflection, and expressing gratitude. Plus, if your June was anything like mine, you spent it updating annual reports, completing end-of-year assessments, and gearing up for the school year ahead in an attempt to be more well-prepared, efficient, and successful than the year before.
Now, the summertime provides us with a moment to pause, relax, and review what we’ve done so far and how we would like to move forward in the upcoming year. This season allows us to spend some time away from our desks and be with our loved ones, to spend it traveling abroad, or to enjoy a staycation close to home.
While it is important that we seek to find God in all things throughout even the busiest times of our lives, it is a little easier to kickstart this habit during the downtime, when life has slowed down a bit, and has given us an opportunity to practice Ignatian Spirituality rooted in awareness and attentiveness.
One of my favorite poems of all time is The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry. Berry is a writer, a farmer, and an academic. Certain lines from the poem stick out to me from time to time, usually during those moments when I decide I take a second to slow down and am out in nature, soaking in the beauty of my surroundings. It wasn’t until I re-read the poem in full recently, however, that I recognized just how spiritual Berry’s writing is. It reads similarly to a prayer and reminded me how even in the seemingly secular parts of life we can find God’s presence.
The poem begins with fear and restlessness about the future. It is so easy to get caught up in existential life questions about our next career step, our next city move, or our next big family decision. These questions can make us frustrated and stressed, because they leave us waiting and the answers are sometimes out of our control.
The poem continues with finding solace within the peacefulness of nature. What helps to break the cycle of these endless “what ifs” is to live in the moment, to be present to what is happening right now.
The poem closes with the line, “For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” God is at work all around us. By putting aside our worries, we can maintain a greater sense of awareness to His presence.
So take some time this summer, before the hustle of orientation and the new school year begins, to stop and enjoy a beautiful beach day, give thanks for good food and BBQs with family and friends, and soak in all the blessings we have been given as members of this Catholic, Jesuit organization. By being more attentive during the little moments throughout our daily lives, we can grow closer to God and more easily feel His presence around us each and every day.
Francesca Leite is the Assistant Director for Student Organizations and Programming in the Office for Student Involvement at Fordham University. She graduated with her Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Montclair State University in January and completed her undergraduate studies at Fordham University. In her free time she enjoys photography, coffee chats with friends and family, live music, and cheering on the New York Yankees.