When I came to UD nine months ago, I had just spent the summer as a Totus Tuus missionary. The Lord used that summer where I was surrounded by children to discard so many lies that I had believed and to invite me into a childlike relationship with Him.
Freshman orientation was hard, not just because of the awkwardness of new faces and the difficulty of telling Anselm apart from Augustine, but because my life was no longer revolving around children and chapel time.
I was no longer under a contract to abide by the Totus Tuus prayer schedule. I ate lunch with young adults rather than with six-year-olds who show off by eating Kroger receipts.
Even though I knew how much I loved learning, I sometimes worried that by coming to UD and spending so much time in study, I would risk losing my newfound childlikeness, and instead become one of the “wise and learned” who exclude themselves from the Father’s revelation. But this has been so far from the truth.
When we think of childlike actions, we tend to think of a child’s wonder and curiosity about the world. Children give you little amethysts and shark teeth as thank-you presents. They spend hours plucking flowers and blowing on dandelions. They are unafraid to ask wild questions.
When you tell children about Christ’s love, they gasp for joy. Their eyes glow before the Tabernacle.
To be childlike is to delight in beauty and to trust that you are loved. Isn’t this the end of a Catholic liberal arts education?
We spend Phil and Eth discussing wonder as a fundamental human activity which sets us apart from other creatures. We read beautiful poetry and prose works and have class outside. We read the Gospels where we encounter the One who loves us.
Leo Strauss writes, “Liberal education supplies us with experience in things beautiful.” In students’ immersion in beauty and truth, their reaction should be one of childlike wonder, a state which allows them to ask hard questions, delight in the flowers and animals on campus, laugh with joy and fall in love with their Creator.
But at the end of the semester, it is so easy to fall into the trap of being childish, not childlike. It is so easy to panic over tests that will not matter in the long run, excessively complain about unappealing classes, or ignore prayer while stubbornly insisting on making time for things that are unimportant.
When we are childish, our eyes become too small to take in beauty. Our hands become too full to receive the gifts Christ desires to lavish on us.
This is why we need a Mother.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, to whom we are consecrating all of campus on May 6, is famous for telling St. Juan Diego:
“Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? … Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms?”
Some of my favorite experiences from this summer took place as I comforted crying students. Their reasons for crying were usually quite childish and silly. But as we talked, sang or danced, those little bleary eyes would turn from being childish to being childlike.
So much of this last year has been spent with Mary as she invites me to turn from childish fear to childlike joy. My first night on campus, I was praying before the painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe and was so aware of our Mother’s presence.
“You’re home!” she seemed to be telling me with delight. “Through the community here, this is where my Son will continue to love you and bless you.”
I was initially skeptical. The search for home can be exhausting in this ephemeral world. But I look back on the last nine months and have no words for the beauty I have experienced in the hollow of Mary’s mantle.
The Seat of Wisdom has been guiding my education, using every class as an opportunity for a sacred encounter with her Son. She has given me the grace to allow other people into my brokenness, to love and to be loved.
She has given me the grace to surrender to my Father’s Will like never before and has picked me up when I have failed to give my “Fiat.” From shenanigans at Constitution Day to chasing rabbits to learning how to swing dance, she has let me experience an inkling of her own childlike joy.
As you enter finals week, I invite you to cast away any childish worries and instead wrap yourself in Our Lady of Guadalupe’s mantle. She is here. She is your mother and the mother of Beauty Himself.
In her mantle, we are home.