By Meghan Schofield
Very often the greatest gifts in our lives are the most unexpected. Those things that we never could have planned or crafted for ourselves, and yet seem perfectly designed for us. It’s in these moments especially we feel the hand of a providential Father, guiding the course of our existence, bringing fruitfulness out of barrenness, refreshment in a dry land, and direction at a crossroads. God really gives us to ourselves, and free will is real; yet His fatherliness covers all human activity, and brings us to people and places unimagined, to people and places that will mark our souls forever.
I never planned to live abroad. And when I moved to Gaming, Austria, after graduate school to teach at the Language & Catechetical Institute, I never planned to stay more than one year. That was eight years ago. Unplanned, unexpected, this has been a time of immense grace, growth, and adventure – a perfectly designed gift from the heart of the Father to his daughter. I’ve met the most incredible students from across three continents; hiked the hills and peaks of Austria; walked the pilgrim’s path to Mariazell; tackled the Tatra Mountains of Slovakia; watched the sunset in Assisi; prayed at the heart of the Church in Rome; attended an ordination of a friend in Ukraine – and a wedding in Kazakhstan; sunbathed on Croatian coasts; strolled among the night lights of Budapest; spoke at an art exhibition in Moscow; sipped so many cups of coffee in small town Slovakia; countless hours of middle-of-the-night adoration in our Sacred Heart Chapel. . . and so much more.
The images of these places will live long in my mind – but what has moved me the most has been the LCI community. Jenny, Bobette, Patience, Sarah, Teresa, Joe, and Maros have made the daily grind joyful. Being allowed into the lives our students, and to spend a year walking alongside them in search of the good, true, and beautiful is a humbling and glorious thing. Late night chats over tea, Uno games, puzzles, stories, common dinner, community prayer, classes, debates, shared tears, contagious laughter, Sacraments celebrated, hikes (at any time of day or night), real and deep friendships forged. . . this is the stuff that this place is made of. Now, at the end of sixteen semesters, I have come to the completion of my time here. I am once again moved by the Holy Spirit into a new place, a new gift. In leaving Gaming and the LCI program I cannot but stand in utter gratitude of the sheer gift of it all. Undeserved, unexpected, unparalleled. I’m brought back to reflect on the words of my patroness, St. Therese of Lisieux from her collected works Her Last Conversations. It seems to best capture the essence of it all: “Everything is grace, everything is the direct effect of our Father’s love – difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul’s miseries, her burdens, her needs – everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness. Everything is grace because everything is God’s gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events – to the heart that loves, all is well.”