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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

The Present Moment

Carolyn Shields

(Nov, 2011) "Just think," I told David during a commercial break during the worldís worst movie. We were in our Waterford hotel in southern Ireland. "This time next week weíll be in Scotland. This time in two weeks weíll be in Paris. This time in three weeks weíll be in London."

David ran his hand through his hair and sighed, a smile at the corner of his lips and exhaustion overshadowing his brow.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jer 29:11). Thatís whatís up. Thatís my life.

And you want to know the killer thing here? Obviously, I have a beautiful life. Only a few days ago I stood on top of the Cliffs of Moher with Emily. This past month the three of us were in Belgium, drinking beer and walking on cobblestones. Weíve climbed cliffs and sat for an hour drinking in the sight of the Irish Sea, and we just came back from Scotland where we took a boat ride on Loch Lomond, pillaged two castles, and explored ruins. So would you believe me if I said my favorite memories of these moments are within the folds of the profound depth of that simple Divine love, found in everyoneís simple days?

Standing on top of the Cliffs of Moher was breathtaking, but it didnít make me smile to myself like I did on the 12 kilometer "walk" there, as David and I prayed the rosary, with nothing but the Atlantic Ocean and forty shades of rolling green fields before us. And Belgiumís chocolates and waffles were to die for, but I relive the night Emily and I sang along to the French-dubbed "High School Musical II" because there was literally nothing to do at night on the sketchy Brusselsí streets. Scotlandís fish and chips and Celtic spirit were everywhere, but I loved our deep conversation in the middle of the airport where we got so into it, that we nearly missed our flight home and had to sprint to our gate. Waterford in southern Ireland was drowning in history, but I canít recall half of it. I do remember being bench pressed by David, and then laughing at that horrible movie until my side hurt.

Do you believe me? Am I sounding crazy? Hereís an excerpt from my journal: "Sun. Sept. 25th 2011; I canít even begin to wonder at how or what to write. Iím sitting on a rock, on a cliff, on a mountain, and the sea is before me. Itís raining. Emilyís on another cliff to my left, and David and a cross are to my back." ..or "Wed. Sept. 28th, 2011; How did my life come to this? Wasnít it yesterday that I was on my roof at Ďthe old houseí seriously watching clouds (as well as time) slowly make their way by?"

What more could God have in store for me? Iíve panicked about why my life is so beautiful. Iíve been asking God forever what I did to deserve this, now more than ever, not because the past two Saturday nights I have been riding in the back of a bumpy bus, my hood pulled up and iPod in, journaling about our latest adventure. But because I walk past four beggars every day, because I can see this Dublin archdiocese crumbling before me. It wasnít until a friend told me in companionable honesty that I did nothing to deserve this. In fact, I donít deserve it. Iím not worthy. I should stop worrying about how to pay God back because I owe him an infinite debt.

So thatís what Iíve been thinking about when kneeling with David in our church in Dublin. The only thing I can do is live this life for Christ. Even when I leave this grand adventure behind me, when all of this becomes a memory (dodging tourists on Grafton Street in the rain, hand knitted Aran sweater clutched under my chin, and McDonaldís smallest value meal in my hand)ÖIíll think of the journey before me. But what the heck? I still have five or something countries to visit before I come home. Iím not even half way done here!

St. Faustina wrote, "When I look into the future, I am frightened. But why plunge into the future? Only the present moment is precious to me, as the future may never enter my soul at all." So sitting here on my bunk bed, my passport on my right and Snowflake, my stuffed kittie on my left, about to leave for church in ten minutes, I want to live this moment for Christ. My past is gone, my future is uncertain. The present moment is all I have to offer.

As I look back on this first month, Iíll smile at the memories of Emily, David, and I walking beneath the ink-black Irish sky, the ocean just out of earshot as we return from a pub. David reels us in and we are crushed to his solid body as he belts out a Disney song, and Emily and I laugh, unable to get out of his grip. The little western town was asleep, but my heart was beating with disbelief that this has become my life.

And I trust God. No matter where I go next, or if I never go anywhere at all, I know He will make it beautiful.

Read other articles by Caroline Shields