This weekend, I got to go on a very special trip. At the JFRC, we held our very first Loyola 360 Retreat. 3 SLAs, 4 Student Leaders, 14 Rome Start Students, and myself traveled to a quaint Italian town called Farfa. Here, we got to enjoy our retreat at the Convent of the Brigidine sisters. The entire weekend was more spectacular than I could have ever imagined.
I very much enjoyed getting to know the Rome Start students and my fellow retreat leaders, while taking time to focus on seeing good in all things, personal reflection, and following my inner compass.
Below is the talk I had the honor to say at the retreat (written by me). My talk was the opener and centers on setting the state for the next 36 hours of the retreat. I posted it below for my personal reference and for others to read in case they wanted to.
It was a fabulous weekend and I’m so happy I got to be part of the experience.
I am absolutely honored to be on this retreat as a leader and I’m very excited to get to know all of you. I hope I can provide insight on what exactly it means to be on this 360 retreat, but I also hope to provide helpful advice in regards to the transition to life at Loyola. I attended this same retreat my freshman year at our retreat and ecology campus back in Chicago and it really did encourage change to my perspective by 360 degrees. At this very same retreat, I got my introduction to the Jesuit values, which you may be experiencing as well. When I became a student at Loyola, I quickly realized how truly different a Jesuit education is when compared to other styles of university education and attending 360 brought these difference’s meanings full circle for me-not only in introducing them to me, but also teaching me how I can apply the values that Loyola offers to my everyday life. This retreat and Loyola have fundamentally changed me and led me to where I am today. I hope you find some meaning and useful insight from being here and learning about them, too!
So, I’m here to start our weekend off with a talk loaded with a lot of really important things in a relatively short amount of time, so lets just dive into it!
This 360 retreat is an extremely special opportunity. During our time here, you and I will have the opportunity to deeply consider things like how are we going to Balance school, social activities and personal care; how will you and I pursue and continue meaningful and impactful Relationships throughout college; and how will we combat academic and social Pressures? These are intense topics that we don’t often take time to consider, but time spent thinking about them will ultimately help you identify certain unique characteristics about yourself that will really aid you throughout your college career and forever. I cannot emphasize how important it is to consider these ideas before you get thrown into a strange, weird, awkward, and hard situation such as going to college in a big city. So, if you hear one thing from me all morning, it’s this: don’t waste a single second of these next 36 hours!!! Engage wholeheartedly in these activities, meet people, make memories, find God or good in yourself and all things, take time for personal reflection, and seek understanding of your Inner Compass.
After this retreat, the hope is that you are able to see in every direction, 360 degrees, and that you’ll have the skills take in all the information and experiences around you and then use reflection to allow you to be more confident moving in your own personal direction.
So, let’s talk about the ideas of Finding God or Good in all things, personal reflection, and how those two ideas lead to you figuring out your Inner Compass because these are some of the most fundamental principles of being a Loyola student! Jesuit educations are operated on the idea of implementing the principles of Ignatian spirituality. Which can be, and has been, described as a spirituality of finding God’s will for better decision-making. Maybe you’ve taken time to look at the Loyola seal, which quotes the Latin phrase “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” or in English “For the greater glory of God” or maybe you went to a Jesuit high school and have heard this all before. Either way, you’re a Loyola student now so you’ll learn about Ignatian ideals very quickly! Even if you’re not a religious or spiritual person there is still a lot to take from these simple principles and words.
Finding God, or Good, or however you want to define the inexplicably marvelous moments in life, in all things is really tricky to do in a world that often seems very, very dark. Living in an urban setting like Chicago, or a foreign european city like Rome, we are privy to seeing a lot of social, racial, sexual, and financial diversity that I know I wasn’t exactly used to coming from a state with a significant lack of diversity. But I’m a firm believer that I needed this and that we all need to work our hardest to push and challenge ourselves every single day. To me, the idea of finding Good in all things means pushing yourself to dig deeper and to see through appearances, facades, and lies to find ultimate truth or meaning-whatever that may be to you. The next step is to take these tough experiences that I know you will have many of, and see the God or Good in them. Regardless of how cliché this sounds, this is the time in your life to use your experiences to shape our world and make it better. Take the things you want to change & change them. Make a difference in however you’re called to and at the end of the day, smile because you’re Alive and that’s a gift.
Despite our best efforts of seeing Good in all things, we all know there are tough times throughout life and the four years you spend in college will hold some of the best and worst times. Homesickness, culture shock, loneliness, insecurities, and “FOMO” are not things we leave behind after high school or even after freshman year. These feelings and emotions are really hard to overcome, especially in an unfamiliar place where you truly have you learn to stand on your own two feet. People will disappoint you, your grades won’t be perfect, and you won’t always do the right thing. But in the end, the one consistency in life is your support system and more specifically yourself. What I have found, and what Loyola and 360 taught me, is that personal reflection is really important during tough times.
When you get to know me a little more, or if you ask my friends, you will see that I am literally 99% extravert, which means I thrive off of socialization and community. Often, after going home from a social event, I’ll feel very lonely and unsure of what to do with myself. These feelings are often even more intense as it is extremely hard to be away from home. Loyola is tremendously diverse, and has a lot of international students, but there are also a lot of students who are a quick 15 minute drive away from home which makes homesickness even worse for those of us who go months without familiarity. Even with my over exuberant quality of being a people person, it’s still really hard to combat loneliness. But, I know I need me time and I need to continuously work to be good with myself. What I’ve learned so far from my year and a half away from home is that it’s ok to be your own best friend. At the beginning, it’s really hard to see past the need to make a million friends and have the best time ever, but some of my favorite times are those walking along Lake Michigan-dreaming and thinking and reflecting on my week. It is really important to take time for yourself so then you can make time for authentic, genuine, and impactful relationships with others. And really, that’s what college is all about.
I promise when you start to make time to see the Good in all things and to reflect on your own experiences and thoughts, your “Inner Compass” will start to open many doors for you. A lot of you may be wondering what exactly this means, but having an Inner Compass looks entirely different for everyone. The Inner Compass surpasses your major and your career path. It’s on a completely different level and many people find their Inner Compass in many different moments in many different ways. The Inner Compass is that voice inside of you that tells you who you are. It helps you find things you are passionate about, it allows you to be genuine during your interactions with others, and it is what gives you the strength to deal with adversity–which you will encounter a lot of during your time at Loyola.
Loyola is full of opportunity to build yourself and community. I encourage you to try something new every day your first semester there and see what makes you feel most yourself. These are the things you must hold on to. So, Volunteer, join a club, or go explore a new part of town-I’m sure you all already know that getting lost is sometimes all you need to be found, especially from all your explorations here abroad! Know that you all have incredible courage and strength for taking this opportunity and that this is something that will and has changed your life for the better. PAUSE
I wanted to share some simple ideas, which happen to be some of the best advice I’ve ever received or offered. These are a co-mingling of my thoughts and the wise words of Baz Luhrmann, whom you definitely need to learn more about when you have time. I thought maybe some of these things could resonate with you like they resonated with me and maybe act as some food for thought as you go throughout this weekend. So, I’ll leave you with these:
- Don’t waste your time on jealousy, sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind, the race is long and hard and in the end it’s only with yourself
- Remember the compliments you receive and forget the insults–if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.
- Get to know your parents, they’ve done a lot for you and you never know when they’ll be gone for good.
- Be nice to your siblings, they’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
- Understand that friends come and go, but for a precious few, who should hold on, work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle for as the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.
- Listen in class, study hard, and find success in whichever way you define it.
- Don’t wait for other people to show you the way, find it for yourself.
- Use college to both challenge and validate yourself, because there are a lot of awesome people out there whom you can learn a lot from (including yourself)
Finding God or good in yourself and all things, taking time for personal reflection, and seeking understanding of your Inner Compass, these are all things that take time and a lot of trial and error. Be patient with yourself and take the good with the bad. Every moment is precious and special in it’s own unique way.
Understanding our Inner Compass is what leads us to the deepest desire of the human heart. The deepest desire of our heart is what makes us come alive and be our most authentic selves. When we listen to our Inner Compass, we are led to the things that sustain us—love, joy, peace, etc. So, use your time here for the next couple of hours to disconnect, to ask questions, and to set goals. There’s a lot to look forward to so good luck!
The Arrupe Prayer:
Fall in Love
Attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. (1907-1991)
Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.