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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

Beautiful Summer

Carolyn Shields

(August, 2011) Sweating, I pinned a guy to the ground and put my weight into his side, twisted his arm behind his back…and laughed. Two of my friends, my sister, and I took self defense classes this summer, and it was the hardest thing to suppress hysterical laughter from bubbling out as we warmed up, swinging our nunchucks in circles, uncoordinated as ever. The instructor never cracked a smile.

I love those moments when on the verge of a laugh I take a step back and say, "Holy smokes, God…what did I do to deserve this beautiful life?" And then I deflect a strangle-grab from my sister and make her tumble onto the mat. She lands with a thump, and I try again not to laugh with the stony faced Commando Krav Maga Instructor looking on. I mean, holy cow, the other participant was calling him ‘sensi.’ I just wanted to shout, "hi-ya!" and punch the air with my fist.

It’s little events that made my summer. Introducing my brother David to my new neighbor and friend by tucking him into David’s bed and tossing him a book, so that when David walked in, all he saw was a strange guy reading "Kristen Lavransdatter," a novel that weighs ten pounds. Or laughing in Hershey Park when a friend just puked after a rollercoaster, or cackling over a forgotten joke around a bonfire.

Another event that made my summer was Catholic Live, a high school retreat held every July at the Mount. I’m always easily stirred by my generation’s incredible faith. Did you know half of the marchers at the March for Life are under the age of thirty? And that one third of my generation has been lost by abortion? We young Catholics rally under the banner of Christ—we hold it high. We shout hymns to the beat of drums and guitar strums. Forget the organ…that’s too heavy to carry in addition to our crosses. And until our last day we’ll help each other carry them. As Mount students danced around, pumping up the highschoolers at Catholic Live, I had to lower my camera for a moment. How. Beautiful.

Not even events, just moments in time made my summer: playing the guitar until my fingers blistered, editing my book on the South Carolina shore, watching fireworks explode with my family and realizing how much I’ll miss them when I’m in Ireland…crashing for the night on a friend’s couch, dressed as Luna Lovegood from ‘Harry Potter,’ and undertaking a rite to womanhood with friends by finally getting my ears pierced. Just moments when I think of all the praise I should offer God in thanks.

Or take this entry from my journal this summer, a passage with no date—I just simply wrote "Next Day" at the top and underneath: "Def. of Beautiful—being yelled at to come down for dinner for the second time while sitting on my quilt upstairs after a nap from reading the Bible with John Mayer playing, rain falling outside, and vivid memories of yesterday in the forefront of my mind."

Great events like parties and the beach took up only about 5% of my summer. The rest was filled with work—at the Mount and Holy Grounds Café. In the morning I run around taking photos of kids at camp and at night I might be helping at a punk funk concert. The next morning I may make your latte. I need to love those beautiful moments because they happen all the time.

And I’m thankful for having so many of them. I can sit on a fallen log in our woods for hours (or at least, I could before I knew two black bears are roaming somewhere on this mountain), look out at the horses below, and journal about unexpectedly seeing a friend. I journal about my sister not being a grouch, a photoshoot with a keyboard and Olivia Sielaff in a wheat field, or a promise I’m likely to break about not putting in my article how my grandmother got the condo’s microwave and oven mixed up. Simple and beautiful. I journal about wounded hearts, pure memories, and the life I want to live. Flip a few pages and you’ll find lines filled with helpless cases, tears over a father in Iraq, and frustrations about classes…

So you can dwell on that guy you thought about every lonely summer night and every quiet morning, but as Audrey Assad sings in "Run Forward," one of my favorite songs: "You treat your time like you own it. It’s slipping fast away, and you’re not getting younger. Not even a bit, no, not even at all." You can stare at a clock, you can roll over in your mind those words they said to you, and you can complain about that 5:30 a.m shift at Holy Grounds or those 14.5 hours you’re scheduled to work the day after the Harry Potter midnight premier, but then you lose sight of it all.

Lose sight of what? The BEAUTY! The utter and total beauty that kisses your life gently each and every second, handed down by God to Mary’s gentle hands and planted on your rosy cheek! Life is too beautiful to keep annoying thistles near your heart. "The end for which we are created invites us to walk a road that is surely sown with a lot of thorns, but it is not sad; through even the sorrow, it is illuminated by joy," said Pierre Giorgio Frassati. Another saint said, "Happiness is not found in you. It is not found outside of you. Happiness is only found in God, and if you find him, you will find it everywhere." Want to find that joy? Want to find that happiness? Keep life simple, make it sincere and be humble…and do it all for Him.

To end with words from the singer, Matt Maher: "Isn’t it beautiful?! Isn’t it marvelous? The God of the Universe, He became one of us! We cry out and then love comes down again."

Read other articles by Caroline Shields