A reflection on Holy Family’s 2018-2019 school year theme – Witness for Christ.
As she prepares for graduation and the next phase of her life journey, Wahlert Catholic senior Mary Freund reflects on what being “little” means to her as a Witness for Christ.
I had the privilege of going to St. Columbkille for school Mass as part of Holy Family’s send-off to the seniors. Waiting in line to go to Mass and seeing my elementary school teachers and the students brought back fond memories when I went to St. Columbkille. I wondered if I had really been as small as the kindergarteners I saw, and I appreciated that the school and my teachers have not changed one bit; while their students may age, my teachers certainly haven’t. It was seeing them, both the little kindergarteners and my unchanged teachers, that reminded me of my calling as a Catholic and the many lessons through which Holy Family has taught me that calling throughout the years.
First: I am called to be little. The overwhelming quietness and smallness of elementary school astounded me when I went back; it was almost like walking into a convent for the first time. Elementary school is little not because of its students (many of whom are taller than I) but because of its quiet, humble sphere of existence. In elementary school, it is perfectly acceptable to remain imaginative and carefree, finding the greatest joy in the smallest flowers and ladybugs. Being an elementary school student means letting go of fears and worries, even if involuntarily, and placing trust in someone greater. As Christians, we have the same calling: to let go of our fears and place complete trust in One much greater than us. I’ll never forget the night during Kairos when Fr. Alan Dietzenbach made this completely clear to me, saying, “Mary, God loves you too much to let you love Him only by parts. You have to trust Him enough to give Him all.” His words referenced St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who famously “chose all” for Christ. She wrote, “Let us remain then very far from all that sparkles, let us love our littleness, let us love to feel nothing, then we shall be poor in spirit, and Jesus will come to look for us and He will transform us in flames of love.” Only by giving everything of myself to Christ can I be made perfect in His love, and only by trusting Him fully can I give Him all that I am. As elementary schoolers know, the great irony of humility and littleness is how freeing and empowering they are. Those who think they are great will always burden themselves with ways of proving their greatness; those who know they are small are content to search for joy in the ladybugs and the dandelions.
Second: I am called to follow God’s way consistently. I saw my teachers at St. Columbkille gently but firmly guiding their students to God in the same patient way they once guided me. Their constant support and guidance has surely shepherded many of their charges to the path of sainthood (and hopefully gained decades off of Purgatory for themselves, too!). Though they may encounter difficulties or make mistakes, those teachers continually strive for excellence without losing hope. We are also called to emulate their fortitude. Although it may be difficult to give everything to God and to entrust Him fully, we are called to keep going. Even when we find ourselves too tired or struggling to follow God in the darkness, we are called to take the next step. Even when we cannot see where the road ends and we feel miles away from anyone else, we are called to keep hoping. As St. Thérèse says, “Always lift your little foot to mount the staircase of holiness, but do not imagine that you will be able to go up even the first step! No, but the good God does not demand more from you than good will… Soon, won over by your useless efforts, He will come down Himself and, taking you in His arms, He will carry you up.” I am to be consistent in virtue and in faith by attempting to take that first step even in the darkness, even when it feels like God is not there. It means going to Mass, stopping in the Wahlert chapel between classes, praying in the morning, and defending the faith even if I have no confirmation that it is true, because I am also called to be little and to recognize my littleness. Just because I cannot see the end of the road or the light in the darkness does not mean they do not exist; it simply means I do not know how to see them.
The lessons I have learned from Holy Family throughout my academic career are invaluable to my faith and my spiritual well-being. And while I have learned much in my 14 years of school, it took me until now to realize that the most important lessons were ones I learned in elementary school. Having the faith of a child means remaining innocent and happy forever. Wrongs seldom last forever; the smallest blessings bring the greatest joy. Like the little kindergarteners who, even as they falter when they genuflect at Mass, have no shame and simply try again, I know now that I am called to be little and to place trust in God’s great hands. It is freeing to know that, no matter where life may take me, I have only to lose myself in Him, and all shall be well.
Mary Freund is a Wahlert Catholic High School senior and member of the St. Columbkille parish community. This is the fourth post in a series celebrating Holy Family’s 2018-2019 school year theme, “Witness for Christ.” Read other posts in the series from the Klapatauskas family, Fr. Tom McDermott, pastor of St. Joseph the Worker and St. Columbkille and Holy Family teachers Jolene (Berning) Belken and Tim Berning.