Gaudium et spes: Moment by Moment

April 13, 2018

My time on the Hilltop is winding down. People have been telling me for years this moment would come, but when you’re a freshman or sophomore, it’s easy to dismiss this message. Senior year can feel like an impossibly distant future.

Now, suddenly, that future is my present. One of the many items remaining on my senior bucket list is emphasizing to my younger peers how important it is to cherish your time here and not pass up opportunities merely because there’s “plenty of time left.”

When I was growing up, every morning when I’d come downstairs for breakfast I’d find my mother in the kitchen ready to greet me. Most days my father would have already left for work, but he would always leave a note for my siblings and me. Depending on what was happening that day, he would wish us good luck on an exam or sporting event or leave us some other uplifting message. No matter what he wrote, however, he would always end his notes with the phrase, “Enjoy the moment.”

Throughout my childhood, this became ingrained in my mind. I still recall it on many mornings, and it has helped me realize that our lives are nothing more than a series of moments. To my mind, this is an encouraging observation, not a sobering one. But many of these moments can’t happen unless we choose them, and very few will take on any meaning unless we invest in them. Only the moments we choose to seize are the ones that will endure in our memory and ultimately define who we are and how we live. And in order to seize the moment, we must be present in it, which for many requires eliminating the distractions of your devices while with other people and not preoccupying yourself with where you’ll soon be but rather with where you are now.

There is nothing wrong with looking forward to the future—we all do it. We look forward to reunions with friends, birthday celebrations, vacations, weddings, you name it—but we cannot let the moments to come distract us from the moments we have now.

I am often guilty of being so distracted by where I am headed that I lose appreciation—sometimes even cognizance—of my present surroundings. Whether walking through Manhattan to work, past Volta Park on my way to Wisconsin Ave or past all of you on my way to class, there is always something worth discerning in these moments.

The Jesuits live their lives according to the principle of finding God in all things. Because God created the world, He left an indelible mark on all of creation, especially human beings who are made uniquely in his image. When God was incarnate in Christ and died on the cross, He imbued all time and history with the grace of His love, divinity and sacrifice. In a real sense, then, God can be seen and felt everywhere.

This is a great comfort. No matter where we are, God is discoverable right there with us. In light of this, in light of God’s presence, we cannot let our fears and uncertainties about the future distract us from the richness and beauty of our present.

We can always find something to worry about if we think hard enough, which is why we shouldn’t strain ourselves with the effort. The future can be daunting; there’s no way around it. This is especially true when you’re an underclassman, undecided about your major and clueless about what career path to pursue. Many of us have been there. Do not think that you will be able to sit down and figure it all out in a day, a month, or even a year. Life decisions like these are made over long periods of time. In other words, determining our future takes many moments of our present.

In the 16th century, Ignatius of Loyola coined a phrase to help his disciples figure out what God wanted for them in their futures. He taught that God communicates with us through our “holy desires.” Although it takes long periods of reflection to distinguish our holy desires from our ephemeral, self-centered ones, they are manifest to us most forcefully in the daily moments of our lives.

There is plenty to look forward to in our futures and plenty to fear. We cannot know with certainty when we will be gathered together once again with our friends from the Hilltop after graduation. All we can do right now is enjoy the time we have and treasure one another’s company. It is in this joy and self-giving that we will pave the path to our futures.

No matter where your path is leading, you can always find happiness along the way by enjoying the moment.

Gaudium et spes is coordinated by the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus. The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic, fraternal, and service organization. This column focuses on how Catholic values, principles, and teachings can inform the lives of all Georgetown students, regardless of faith. Additionally, this column attempts to facilitate dialogue about matters of faith and inspire conversations about topics that impact the daily lives of Hoyas, from national politics to campus news. Gaudium et spes appears online every other Friday.

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