The metaphor of the “journey” of life has been instilled within my siblings and me since we were young. My dad would constantly remind me that “Life is a train ride. Are you getting on it or are you driving it?” Aside from my personal vision of the train of life, as a young Catholic I learned another story of journeying: the Road to Emmaus. This story, recited in CCD courses (religion courses usually for students in public school without a religion class) and Catholic summer programs, is arguably one of the most popular passages in the Gospels. As it says in Luke’s Gospel: two disciples were walking to Emmaus, discussing the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection when Jesus suddenly appeared to walk with the two, unbeknownst to them. Jesus asked the disciples about the events of the past few days, and they explained to him what had happened. As the weary travelers arrived at the village, they asked Jesus to join them for dinner. At dinner, Jesus broke bread and gave it to his disciples, at which point his true identity was made clear to them. The Gospel for this Third Sunday of Easter reflects on the events following that first revelation of Christ to the disciples – the not-as-popular follow-up story. In this passage, Jesus reappears to the disciples while they explain the story of his original appearance to others. As Christ surprisingly reappeared to the disciples in this story, so too has Christ reappeared in unexpected ways in my life throughout this semester.
This is not just a story about the journey of life, but rather a story about making sense of the twists and turns that make up that path. For me, this past semester has been one of beautiful twists and unexpected turns. For the last few months, I have been studying in Washington D.C. as part of the Notre Dame Washington Program. I came in expecting a fruitful internship experience, challenging courses, and new Notre Dame friendships. What I was not expecting was meeting Joe Biden, attending a ball in the Library of Congress, and the earth-shattering death of my beloved rector, Sr. Mary McNamara. Back at Notre Dame, in the Folk Choir, we sing a beautiful song about the Emmaus journey called “Two Were Bound for Emmaus”. The hauntingly beautiful acapella verse says,
When the road makes us weary, when our labor seems but lost,
When the fire of faith weakens and too high seems the cost,
Let the Church turn to her risen Lord who for us bore the cross,
And we’ll find our hearts burning at the sound of his voice.
My journey this semester has certainly made me weary in new ways, and challenged me to search for faith in new places. At Notre Dame, it is so easy to take my faith for granted, with crucifixes in every room, chapels around every corner, and the Grotto magically appearing at the times in life when you most need it. In D.C., I have to take more initiative to seek out opportunities to enrich my life of faith. There is no Grotto to walk to, no midnight coffee chats with my rector about faith, and certainly no Folk Choir to facilitate the joyful praise of God. When I arrived in D.C. in January, I was worried about who would accompany me on my journey throughout the semester. I thought perhaps the other students from Notre Dame, maybe my professors, or even my internship coordinator. As it turned out, my closest companions have been my three beautiful, random roommates who may not be on the same road to seek Christ, but who have helped me to see Him in new ways. On paper, we seem to be an odd group of friends: A Berkeley girl from California, two Penn students with a depth of worldly experience between them, and an often overtly Catholic Notre Dame girl. However, my roommates welcomed me, and I them, with open arms. In our own parallel version of the Road to Emmaus, I resembled the confused disciple, and they the incarnation of the love of Christ, even if I did not know it was Him.
I expected to discern my job prospects this semester, but instead I have found myself discerning my life of faith more and more. From chats with my roommate about what “faith” even is, to explaining the Catholic mass over late-night hair styling sessions, and ultimately joining together to attend Palm Sunday mass, this semester I was graced with the presence of three beautiful companions on this journey of life.
While this journey may make us weary, our toils may seem for naught, and faith may seem overshadowed, we need not fear, for where we least expect it, there He is. Last night, I came home to see my roommates sitting together on the couch watching a movie on the projector. Not wanting to disturb them, I quietly started to make my way to my room until I heard the beautiful sound of my beloved Folk Choir. Turning back around, I realized the three of them were watching Lady Bird. With tears in her eyes, one of my roommates said, “Wow. There is truly nothing more beautiful than that.” And while my roommates found the love of Christ in the form of my Folk Choir family in that movie, Christ was revealed to me through them in their acts of everyday love. May God continue to bless the journey of life that is paved with the “little things” - things like Lady Bird, palm crosses, and cherry blossoms in the spring-time - which may not be so little after all.