My airplane touched down in Milwaukee for Christmas break during a gorgeous and dangerous snowstorm. I spent the last twenty minutes of the flight staring breathlessly out the window as crystals of snow streaked off the plane wings and glittered in the white lights. I was praying the Rosary, but every so often the wintery sight distracted me. For some reason the snowflakes stretching in icy veins off from the wings reminded me of Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of the Snow Queen. Then inexplicably wandering as minds often do, a new thought popped into my head: Advent is such a strange time for college students.
During the first week of Advent comes the rush of preparing for final exams. Often the valiant effort toward Advent strivings falls behind during the incoming blur. Week two of Advent hails the crazy stress of last minute cramming, the exams themselves, and then throwing everything in a suitcase to go home for the holidays.
Dawns week three with Gaudete Sunday. Most students are either getting on with the exams or traveling home. There is a slight sense of sadness at bidding farewell (albeit only for three or four weeks) to school friends. It will be weird not to see the “school fam” for a bit, but on the flip side we have not seen our families for three to four to six months. Christmas, New Year’s, snow, relatives, old friends…The delightful idea of going home is also mixed with the changes the semester may have brought and the wondering whether one will fit in again to the home life that a college student inevitably outgrows to some degree.
Sitting on an airplane or driving across country offers ample opportunity to ponder that. Going through my own qualms and hopes as well as an overwhelming contentment of my college squad, I came across an invitation. Grow through it all.
As I prayed the Joyful mysteries of the Rosary on the plane just before landing in the Midwest, I let the meditations center around whatever intentions came to mind just then.
The First Joyful Mystery – The Annunciation
Dear Father, in the Annunciation the Holy Spirit overshadowed Our Lady and infused in her the greatest Discovery and Gift of all time. Put into a completely new place and circumstance, she responded with all the love and humble recognition she has. Thank you for bringing my peers and I together at our school, for allowing us to form friendships, and for showing us who are school families truly are at this time of deep change and annunciation in our lives.
The Second Joyful Mystery – The Visitation
Dear Mother Mary, as soon as you heard that Elizabeth was with child you hastened to help her knowing full well that you were in the same period of growth and change yourself. As we find ourselves bonding with our close friends, please ask the Blessed Trinity to grant us the gift of always helping each other grow. Guide us in walking together toward Bethlehem and in being open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as we counsel each other in our formation.
The Third Joyful Mystery – The Nativity
Dear Mother, we students are taking long journeys home now, excited to see our families but sometimes missing the close friends and the places we have been living at for school. I can not help but think how you felt leaving the Nazareth home for a long journey to Bethlehem, suddenly not only concerned with the needs of your new little family but also for the census and perhaps meeting Joseph’s relatives at the ancient family town of Bethlehem. Please guide our transitions from school to home for the Christmas break and show us the joy of humble acceptance in being wherever we are at the moment, just as you pondered in your heart and accepted the fact that the Christ Child was being born in a cave.
The Fourth Joyful Mystery – The Presentation in the Temple
Dear Father, did you feel a rush of delight when the Holy Family walked quietly into the Temple with their lowly gifts to present themselves to you? Did it gladden your loving heart that they cared enough to gift themselves back to you their Creator? Here I am, and here are my friends. Please open our hearts. Infuse in us the desire to present ourselves to you; help us to do so. Accept our lowly gifts and inspire us to give whatever we bring to the table for purification and maturation. Enlighten our hearts so that it is everything about us that we bring—talents, gifts, struggles, failings—not only what we think is worthy of presenting.
The Fifth Joyful Mystery – The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple
Dear loving Father, the Holy Family returns again and again to the Temple, yet it is only now that they seem to fully grasp on a level of personal sacrifice what their Child’s mission is going to entail. As we offer you ourselves, grant us courage along with the realization and acceptance of your grace to receive the gifts you are giving us. Clarify our hearts with your Holy Spirit so that we might take the opportunities presented before us to grow—finding ourselves, our companions, and our places in your plan of salvation. Fill us with the fire of your love so that we may always turn our hearts toward you.
As this week winds into the fourth week of Advent before Christmas, may we continue to carry the growth of the fall into the cave of Bethlehem and out into the winter ahead.
(Photo Credit: Maria Andress)