Friday, December 14, 2007

Do you know how ridiculously hard it is to be ironic during Advent?

Spe Salvi at a small Catholic liberal arts school

Do you know how ridiculously, ludicrously hard it is to be ironic during Advent?
I don't mean the busyness,
although that is there,
I mean all that sticky, tenacious, fragrant hope
seeping through the seams of our day;
all that expectation breaking out
in the strangest places;
those lit eyes,
straining for they-don't-know-quite-what.

Tonight I went to our university's Advent Light service;
the night before final exams.

The chapel was full,
the space was dark,
everyone carefully held lit candles,
and we sang and listened to Scripture and smiled at each other,
bleary from the study and grading,
Catholics and Protestants and students and faculty and staff in this unusual place,

Everyone else sang and smiled.
Except me.
I cried.
God, I love these students.
And goodness knows, I know more than I want to
about their assorted bad decisions, habits and practices.
But they have their full share of pain and tragedies as well:
One of them is in a coma, and has been since August.
Others have been hurt in some of the worst ways possible.
Some don't "fit in," and
some are barely passing classes.
Some go home in a few days to disastrous family situations.
Some struggle with addictions more than they want to admit.
Some have family in Iraq.
Some lost family in Iraq.
I could go on and on and on.
But they're here, and smiling, and happy, singing that whisper of a song:
what Child is this?
Somehow, for this hour, they have a full share of hope.

As the professor doing the reflection asked students
to reflect the light of Christ into the darkness of human life
(go! do it! now!)
I watched the students.
They hung on every word.
They got it, for this moment.
They heard.

Then, in typical Minnesota fashion, we plunged into the 10 degree cold
(with a brisk wind besides)
and walked across campus to a large fir tree,
which was blessed, and lit,
and people sang every verse of "Joy to the World" with more gusto than you could imagine possible
in such conditions.

Thank you, God, for hope. In hope we are saved.

But I can't do irony under these conditions.


Maddy said...

You get a pass [but just for today]
Best wishes

This is my calling card or link"Whittereronautism"until blogger comments get themselves sorted out.

Adoro said...

Aw....that just made me cry!

Ray from MN said...

I wish my teachers were like you.

Maybe they were, but I never tried to get to know them, so the blame is mostly mine.

Josephus Flavius said...

Which college by the way?

The Ironic Catholic said...

Josephus, if you email me, I'll tell you.

Ray, thanks. But this school really tries to form student-attentive professors as part of the founder's I guess St. Jean's gift is seeping in.

angelmeg said...

I call it waiting in neurotic hope.

Which is the way I feel about waiting for my finals grades, and try to take care of a mother in a nursing home who has no idea who I am, and teenage children who don't care that my well ordered day is torn assunder by their "slight change of plans".

But all in all, I love my life.

Spe Salvi and hard to be ironic.

Carolina Cannonball said...


Meredith Gould said...

Thank you for the gift of this exquisite post.

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Lovely reflection..

biblethumpr said...

IC, thanks for the great reflection on RBCU's Christmas service. As someone who has planned these types of services for universities for a few years now, your comments are much appreciated. It is also great to see that faculty are willing to take such a significant role in students' lives. Keep up the good work, not only on the blog but in the classroom as well. RBCU is lucky to have you.

The Ironic Catholic said...

Aw, thanks, but I don't teach at RBCU...more like RSCU (really small Catholic Univ). And if you did Campus Ministry, more power to you. The work of the brave and devoted and those who don't care if they never sleep at a normal hr again.

Susan Johnston said...

Thank you! Thank you!