I'M DONE!!! I'm officially finished with Graduate School! I took my last final last night. All I have left to do is walk across a stage and get my diploma. I can't believe its over and I have my Masters Degree.
Two years ago when I arrived in Denver I had no idea what God had in store for me. I knew I would grow spiritually from the experience and learn a little something along the way but never in a million years did I imagine it would be like this. I thought I would move out here take some cool classes, write some papers and walk home with a degree. I came in slightly prideful feeling because after all “her I have an undergrad in Theology”. I knew I didn't know it all but I also didn't really think going to the Augustine Institute would have as profound an impact on me as it did. I grew intellectually way more than I thought I would but above all the spiritual growth and formation I received there have deeply changed me.
Pope Paul VI in EVANGELII NUNTIANDI writes, "Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ's sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection." I had read this once before in undergrad but I don't think I realized the importance and seriousness of these words until recently. There is an urgency in today's world to go out and evangelize. If we are Catholic, then we have an obligation to share in this mission. It is NOT an option. The world is crying out for truth and is one of the biggest states of confusion it has ever been in. As Catholics we are called to bring Christ to all people. We are called to transform this culture and that can only be done through Evangelization.
My time at the AI has given me a newfound sense of what Evangelization is and means. It has changed my perception of how I view the world. In a sense I've had a second conversion experience. In so many ways I have rediscovered my Catholic faith. The lens through which I view the world all of a sudden seems so much clearer. I feel renewed and ready to go back into teaching. I feel ready to take on new challenges and adventures as I continue to serve Christ through the Church.
Here are some bits of some of the ways the Augustine Institute has shaped me and prepared me to better serve the New Evangelization.
1. I have to ramp up the witness of my life. I have to strive to live in a way that is so much more radically other than I have in the past while at the same time do it in a way that is attractive and loving to others. Rational arguments are not going to convert people from their relativistic worldview. Benedict XVI says so many people reject Christianity because we have lost the "Art of Living". If our lives don't bear witness to the beauty and excitement of a relationship with Jesus Christ we will not change anyone.
2. I've come to a much more profound realization that I am a son of God. My first semester in Dr. Sri's class we talked about Divine Sonship; that lecture changed something in me; it’s like all of a sudden something clicked in my head. "See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. And so WE ARE!" (1 John 3:1) We are truly and fully God's children. He loves us profoundly and will take care of us no matter what.
3. I have come to hunger for the Eucharist and prayer in a way I never have before. The readings from the Saints we had to do and the time I spent in prayer over them have brought me to a point in my prayer life where daily mass and at least 30 minutes of silent meditation are essential to my day. The few times I have missed those in the past few months have resulted in bad days where things feel off. I still have a long way to go in my prayer life but before I knew in my head prayer was important but now its importance has penetrated the depths of my heart. It is slowly becoming the air I breathe. I hope I never lose sight of this one.
4. I have come to understand the history of why things in the world are the way they are today. All of a sudden all the things that have always frustrated me about the culture and politics make sense. Not that they don't frustrate me any more but I have begun to realize that a lot of the reason people are the way they are is not their fault. Our culture has been severely attacked and affected by centuries of incredibly bad Philosophy and thought that have left people with a very poor understanding of human anthropology and left them confused and in a state of hopelessness. This is why Evangelization is so key to the transformation of our society.
5. Lastly, probably the biggest thing the Augustine Institute has given me is brought me to a point were I have realized more than ever that I am nothing and God is everything. In the words of John the Baptist, "I must decrease, He must increase." I am slowly learning that I have to completely abandon my self into the arms of my Father. The only reason I have ever been effective in ministry and will continue to be effective in ministry is because of Him! Without him I am NOTHING! I will not go on from here and do great things; He will go onto do great things through me! "Apart from me you can do nothing!" Left to do things on my own I completely and totally suck. It is God who allows me to help in the building up of His Kingdom. It is God who blesses me with all the gifts in my life. It is God who gives me life and holds me in existence.
It is with a grateful heart that I journey into the next phase of my life. I'm ready to serve, ready to love, and ready to trust. No doubt God will continue to challenge me and form me. I still have much to learn and experience but the knowledge I have gained at the Augustine Institute will be indispensable in my task to go out and make disciples and on the road of my own personal journey.