Witness: Final Deductions From A Semester in Europe

In one short week, I will be flying back home after spending a semester in Gaming, Austria. The semester has been so amazing and blessed, but at the same time, I am excited to go back home and share my stories and memories with my friends and with my family. Besides questions of, “Did you see the Pope?”, and “Did you meet any European men?” (both of which I have already been asked… yes, I saw Benedict XVI, and no, I have a boyfriend, thank you very much), I know I will be asked what I took away from my semester in Europe. Throughout my excursions in Europe, one thing which has undoubtedly struck me has been traveling to so many places inhabited by the saints. While in Poland, I visited Auschwitz and touched the door of the cell where St. Maximilian Kolbe gave his life in place of his fellow prisoner, Franciszek Gajowniczek. At the nearby camp of Birkenau, are the remains of the gas chamber where St. Edith Stein was killed. We were told that Poland is made strong by the blood of the martyrs and saints. I won’t disagree. That same week, I prayed at the convent where St. Faustina received the messages of Divine Mercy, and walked the streets of Wadowice, where Bl. John Paul II grew up. In Paris, I visited the chapel of the Miraculous Medal where St. Catherine Laboure received her apparitions of Mary. In that chapel were the incorrupt bodies of St. Catherine and St. Louise de Marillac, and down the street, the incorrupt body of St. Vincent de Paul. In the nearby city of Lisieux, I visited the childhood home of St. Therese as well as the convent which she entered. Assisi was my favorite city, particularly because I have a special devotion to St. Francis. It was unreal to walk inside the church of San Rufino and touch the baptismal font where both Francis and Clare were baptized. A five-minute walk from there took me to the church of San Damiano – and I prayed inside the very church where Christ spoke through the crucifix to St. Francis, telling him, “Go and rebuild my church, which is falling into ruin.” The convent of St. Clare is built right up against San Damiano, and right next to the nun’s dining hall, I viewed the staircase which the invading Saracens came down before they were stopped by St. Clare holding the Eucharist. Earlier this semester, my philosophy professor had a handful of students over at her house, and she asked me the question I know I will hear again and again: “What has struck you most that you will be taking back with you?” It’s like the question of “What are you thankful for?” that you get at Thanksgiving. You can’t go with a generic reply because that’s what your fourth cousin twice removed just gave; you know you need a unique and clever response. So trying to make a good impression, I went on to vividly explain how real the saints had become to me, and how that aspect was missing back in the United States. But then she asked me how I was going to address that. If I saw the need for saints in the U.S., what was I going to do? Of course, I danced around answering that question! But over the next several weeks, that question stuck in my mind. I also realized that particularly in being a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I am exposed to so many graces. There is Mass every day on campus, multiple adoration chapels, confession, and so many opportunities for a richer spiritual life. And really, every member of the Catholic Church has access to these graces. So much has been given to us, and as in the parable of the servants given the talents, much is expected. Before I come off as sounding pompous or conceited, I am well aware that I can not earn or achieve holiness by my own merits. The absolute most I can do is cooperate with God’s call to holiness. And there is that universal call to holiness… we are all called to be saints. Not one of us as Christians is called to be ‘average’ or ‘mediocre’. We were made for so much more. In fact, I believe that we have no excuse not to be saints. There is no reason we should not be the saints of Steubenville, of Chicago, and so forth. It took me four month in Europe to really figure that out, but yes… that is what I will be taking home with me. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from immorality… For God has not called us for uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7-8

Share Tweet Email