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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

Illusions in Springtime

Carolyn Shields
MSM Class of 2014

(4/2012) So spring is here! And it is horribly affecting my work because I consider it a sin to be in the library when the sky is blue, the trees are blossoming, and my nose is tingling with allergies. Last Tuesday when I should have been writing my five-page annotated bibliography paper that was due the next day, Kathy my sister sent out a text to play volleyball at 3:30. Ten minutes later, I was barefoot and frolicking to Tommy on the grass, shouting "Itís spring! Itís spring!" when he was in the distance, and hugging him because I lost a dare. Occasion #1 where Carolyn sounds stupid in this article. Kathy and Beverly were literally rolling on the ground laughing at my embarrassment as we walked back together.

Volleyball ensued. Kids in the distance were walking on a rope they strung between two trees which is the new thing to do at the Mount. Some girls who didnít see our eye rolls were sun bathing near the seminary, and some incredibly ingenious guys carried their flat screen TVs and sofas out to the patio to take advantage of the sunny weather. Book bags and, say, those five-page annotated bibliographies are put aside until the stars came out. Itís a hard lifeÖthis thing people call college.

These first few days of beautiful weather were much needed on my part. I was feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work I was and wasnít doing. But furthermore, Iíve been feeling so conflicted about my prayer life. For two weeks I missed a few daily Masses because I was a) writing papers or b) sleeping, and I just had to tell myself that daily Mass is a gift, not a requirement. Mostly, I know there will be a time when I donít have access to daily Mass whether itís because of work or volunteering in another country, so Iím taking advantage of it now.

But Iíve also been praying so much that itís exhausting. I donít mean just spiritually. But thereís this overwhelming truth that no matter what we do, no matter how much we thank God, for climbing in trees with friends, for the deadline of that five-page annotated bibliography being pushed back two days, it will never be enough. Even when we get to heaven, we can always love God more. We simply can never love Him enough.

So at the end of this week was a silent retreat that I signed up for. Iíve never been frightened by the concept of silence before, and since Iím helping to lead the Kairos retreat the following weekend, I wanted time to prepare. About fourteen women signed up, and we spent two days at the Shrine.

During one afternoon, I sprawled out beneath a pine tree on the Basilicaís grounds. I was sketching Pierre Giorgio Frassati from that black-and-white photo of his where his right arm is lackadaisically draped over his friendís shoulder, a lock of his black hair falls in front of his eye, and his mouth opens wide in a full-belly laugh. The sun was incredibly warm and comforting, and the grass was thick and spongy, fresh and green. I stopped drawing and lay on my back. Within moments I was asleep.

When I woke up, my arm was sprawled over my head, my mouth was open, but in that hour, the world didnít change. The birds were still chirping; the sun hardly even moved. And for once, I didnít shower God with praises. I didnít feel the need to pull out my rosary or my notebook to work on my Kairos speech. I simply let God love me. I remained lying down but rolled over onto my stomach and let the grass cushion my cheek. God knows I love Him, but for once I let myself experience the reflection. I let God love me more in that moment than I have ever allowed before.

The retreat ended a few hours later, and when I went back to the Shrineís White House to pack up my things, I went inside the pristine bathroom. When I twisted the doorknob, it wouldnít open. I wiggled and shook and pulled and messed with the lock but it wouldnít budge. I shook the door, thinking it was just stuck.

ĎMy life,í I think, and all I could do was pull on the door with all my might. Occasion #2.

Then on the other side I feel someone trying to pry open the door. Lizzie! I was worried that she left with the others, but it was just us two left in the house. Because our time for silence hadnít ended, we worked quietly a few minutes until I began snickering, and then we both laughed.

I was stuck in a bathroom. It was bound to happen sooner or later in my life.

"Uhm, do you want me to get Sr. Liz? I donít really know what sheíll doÖ" Lizzie said quietly on the other side.

"Uh, I guess so," I said, unable to stop the sporadic chortles. I was more desperate to open the door. I would look like such an idiot. Besides, there werenít any screws on the lockÖit was that old.

When I heard Lizzie go, I crawled on top of the heater and pried open the window. A two- story drop. Dang it.

I elbowed the door. I rammed by shoulder into the door, hoping it wasnít stuck. Finally, I was able to put all my strength into the lock and then I found myself back into the world, sweaty and hot.

So anyway, uhhhÖletís tie that story in with trusting in God. Trust is beautiful; life is beautiful. Spring. I think that works. Or you know what? I guess it can just be a little humor Iím injecting into your day, you oh anonymous audienceÖ

As the infamous Doc always says when he visits me at St. Philomenaís, "Do you want to see something funny?"

"Yes, Doc."

"Look in the mirror."

Read other articles by Caroline Shields