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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year

{Beautiful} Points of {Beautiful} Time

Carolyn Shields

(May, 2011) I was standing around a bonfire beneath a sky penetrated with stars, trying to suppress my laughter with nineteen other Mounties as Alec began yet another rendition of "Jesus, Remember Me," and forced us all to sing along. We had been ready to start the Stations of the Cross four renditions ago. "Ok," Matt, a senior whose future will be beautiful, said before Alec could begin another round. "We will begin." Followed by a couple of chortles.

I was in a homeless shelter that smelled so strongly of cat that my nose kept running, but I was enthralled by the woman on the couch next to me who was in charge. I listened to her history, of her taking thirty homeless children into her house. Across from us, the schizophrenic resident recounted her years of living on the streets.

I was falling asleep in my chair at 2 a.m. as little peons and orcs ran across my computer screen while words such as "As you wish" and "We will destroy them, m’lord" emanated from it. The sounds were thinly overshadowed by Justin Bieber music in the background. Playing Warcraft had become a weekly tradition, but all I could think about was earlier that night when all of us went square dancing, clapping our hands, dosey-doing, and shouting, "Yee-haw!"

I was on top of Torture Hill in the heart of New York state where two beloved saints were brutally beaten by the Iroquois and where I lost a breath of my life. I still wear my bracelet to remember that fall pilgrimage, even though all of the icons have fallen off long ago.

I sat in my Globalization and Education class, listening to juniors and seniors discuss the role of the individual in Nlongkak, a region in Yaounde, Cameroon and hitting my head on the desk because I didn’t know it was a capstone course when I signed up. There was also that snowball fight at midnight, when Fr. Brian entered from the dark, declaring, "Thou who liveth by the sword must perish by the sword," and then a couple of guys tackled him. Then those Wednesday 10 p.m. Masses with Clint strumming the guitar and Judd playing the keys in the back of the cozy chapel, rain pitter-pattering on the roof. Even now, sitting in the library distracted by friends tapping the glass wall behind me until I turn and acknowledge them. My phone goes off with texts from people who were nonexistent to me one year ago, and I’m neglecting my Shakespearean research paper.

All beautiful moments from this year that are frozen in time, unable to be returned to, and lost to the past.…Only the laughter echoes now.

Freshmen year is over.

God blesses us with time, but it’s up to us how to spend it. Don’t forget; don’t lose those memories of complete bliss and happiness and laughter…I’ve had so many this year. Do not waste your time counting the minutes that pass by but feel your pulse. There’s life beneath your skin hysterically begging to be lived. Life is a story, so cherish each chapter. You will fall in and out of love, and you will fall in and out of love again a few chapters later on. You will see age creep around the corners of your parents’ eyes, and you will face your future faster than you wanted to.

And of course you’ll live life with some regrets tucked into your past. Times of remorse will be thorns in the beautiful garden made of your history. But these regrets will be eclipsed by shadows of gold that are memories you will one day share with Mary in heaven…when life is now your past. And according to scientists, if we discover the secret of time travel, it’s more likely we’ll be able to head to the future than the past (trust me, I already checked…). So don’t live life dwelling on things the past has claimed and cannot change.

There will also be moments of suffering, when you stay up until 2a.m pounding out that paper due yesterday, but St. Therese wrote that "With joy I kiss each heavy cross and smile with every tear that flows." Joy is to be found even in moments of trial. What a great way of living! In suffering there’s happiness to be found! "To suffer and to love is the purest of all joys," St. Therese wrote. Of course, easier said than done. I worked on this article for an hour and a half in the library, and you would think my liberal arts education has taught me how to save documents on the computer, but no. So as I retype it all, I’m trying really hard to be joyful through this suffering.

Besides, no one has suffered as much as that man on the cross, who bore the weight of the world on his shoulders. While doing it, he saw the future and how His church would crumble at times, how His children would turn away, how His kingdom on earth would come under attack…The one thing I want to get across is this: that man shouldn’t have been on the cross. That should have been us up there. But He came so that we might live. So to end in the words of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, "To live without faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for truth, that is not living, but merely existing."

So start living it up for Christ! I was trying to avoid this cliché, but live each day as if it were your last. I can’t believe my freshman year is already in the past, but I thank God every day for blessing me with all of the beautiful memories I’ve acquired this year.

And my life is just beginning.

Read other articles by Caroline Shields