By Michael J. Graham, S.J.
I just came back from a marvelous weekend and need to tell somebody all about it. I guess that all of you will have to do. For the last I-don’t-know-how-many years, I’ve been house chaplain for a retreat program here. It’s gone by a variety of names—first Kairos, now Approach—but its substance has always been the same:Young men and women giving remarkable talks about their lives and leading their classmates—other Xavier students—in a similar reflection on their own lives. It is their stories that keep me coming back. Only God can say, I suppose, how many of these stories I’ve heard over the years. But only I can say what these stories mean to me, as I hear these young men and women—so very wise beyond their years—reflecting profoundly upon their histories, their lives, all that they have and are. Whether it is an unflinching, steely-eyed look at a particularly searing memory or the celebration of a moment of transcendent joy, all of these stories are ultimately the same: The story of young men and women sifting through the bits and pieces of their lives looking for something that they can trust, something they can depend upon. Crying “Eureka!” as they come upon God Himself, concealed within the stuff of their ordinary lives, they remind us all of our common human quest.
This quest is at once a search for an answer to the profoundest problems of the human spirit, a yearning for meaning in the here-and-now of our lives, and a hankering after a world more human and humane, more just, more free.
These retreats are for me privileged opportunities to see these students at their very best. And their burning hopes and raw idealism not only get me reflecting (sadly) on where I was when I was their age, they inspire me to continue finding ways, with all the members of the Xavier community, to shape men and women whose zeal will burn bright and who will have the skills of heart and hand and head to bring about this world that they can so very nearly touch, so very nearly see.
Mostly, though, these students remind me of what is most important in life: The profound impact that we can have on each other when we share with one another the very best that we have to give. That’s a good lesson to be reminded of any day, of course, but an especially important lesson to be reminded of as we enter into the holiday season that will end this year and begin the next. And so let me simply close with this: That those who love you best will in turn call forth the best from you—for this best of yours is never meant for you alone, but is God’s gift through you for all His people.