As I racked my brain for some dazzling insight or profound revelation to share in this article, I kept coming up empty handed. My writer’s block seemed to be at an all-time high as I grasped for a fresh take on the role of women in the church, the crisis of vacant pews in my own parish church, or the recent Pew Research study on Catholics who actually believe in the real presence of the Eucharist — and still, nothing was sticking.
In fact, all of these wider issues seemed a bit foreign to me — at least at the moment. Truthfully, I couldn’t get past the hunger pains grumbling and causing a fuss in my own heart.
Recently I moved back on campus for my senior year of college — a reality which is totally surreal, slightly nerve-wracking and strangely relieving all at the same time.
As I lay in bed the first night back at school, I felt a familiar rumbling of restlessness resurface and begin tugging at my interior. I sat in bed, doing an inventory of my day and wondering where things got off track. I decided to spend time in somewhat-sleepy prayer, asking God where he was moving throughout the day.
I quickly realized that the last time I had talked to God like this was earlier that morning, lying in the exact same slightly comatose state while I was still just waking up. Sure, I had thought and talked a lot about God throughout the day, but (as we all probably know) that’s a lot different than actually talking to him. I missed him. I craved his Word. I was hungry for his presence.
And so it was that I came face to face with a truth of our faith; as Pope Benedict XVI reminds us in one of his pre-papal essays, “The Fathers of the Church say that prayer, properly understood, is nothing other than becoming a longing for God.” In layman’s terms: The closer you get, the hungrier you become.
I’ve been spiritually spoiled these past few months. From May to August, the Lord had prepared an all-out feast for me, and I could not be more grateful or humbled by all that I’ve been able to experience. However, I think I’ve become so accustomed to being fed (and fed well) that I forgot what it was like to really be hungry again.
Perhaps this analogy will help explain exactly what I mean: When I was little, my mom would come home from food shopping with bags upon bags of groceries. With wide eyes and a rumbling tummy, my sole duty was to help her unpack the goodies and sample each new delicacy that lined our shelves and stockpiled our fridge.
This summer, I feel as though the Lord went on a huge grocery haul of graces and it was my job to simply taste and receive his endless bounty.
Working as an intern for Ascension Press in Exton and Growing Catholics, a grassroots nonprofit based in Downingtown, I got to spend almost every day of the summer sifting through rich Scripture and formative catechesis, all while meeting people who have committed their personal and professional lives to serving the Lord.
In my free time, I was afforded the opportunity to attend the 2019 GIVEN Forum — an incredible conference chock full of young Catholic women looking to offer their gifts in the service of the church, accompanied by a whole host of religious and lay mentors.
If that wasn’t enough, I rounded off the summer by taking my ninth course with the Theology of the Body Institute — a course that focused on Karol Wojtyla’s (who later became St. John Paul II) profound work, “Love & Responsibility.” With Dr. Janet Smith’s instruction (coupled with her endless wit and wisdom), this course was the cherry on top to an unbelievably enriching summer.
The days spent in between overflowed with conversations between my two best friends (also two of the holiest young ladies I know) or driving from place to place, steeped in silence or listening to a plethora of well-crafted podcasts. Not to mention that the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa is right down the street from my home — a luxury that made regular Mass, confession and adoration the foundation of every day.
Needless to say, prayer became the drumbeat and guiding rhythm of my daily routine. It felt altogether effortless and as natural as coffee in the morning.
You can imagine that I had every good intention to allow this summer’s feast of grace carry me over into the school year; and yet, I sit here finding myself craving more.
This all came to a head when I raised the issue with one of my best friends on my drive home for Labor Day weekend. I told her of all the ways I had already “solved” my own problem and come up with multiple solutions for how I was going to make more prayer time for God in my day. Her response was simple yet striking: “Laura, prayer is going to look different now that you’re back at school. You can’t expect to pray the same way you did this summer. He doesn’t want you to.” Huh. I got stuck on this and thought about it the rest of the way home.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in its incredibly rich section on prayer, “Prayer is the life of the new heart” (CCC 2697). Its goal is to confront “the reality of our own life” (CCC 2723) and allow it to be transformed by our faith and his grace. In this way, prayer is meant to be our primary spiritual food, but that’s not to say that it won’t or shouldn’t take on different forms.
In reality, our prayer must conform and cater itself to our current state of life. As such, our prayer life will likely go through periods of feasting and fasting, and as you transition from one to the other, your body may need to take time to adjust to its new diet.
With this in mind, I’m seeing how the Lord is working to reshape my “diet” of prayer now that I’m back at school. Of course, I will always need time for quiet conversation between just me and him, but I’m recognizing his desire to add a few new things to my plate.
For instance, I’ve seen him supplement my typical time of solitary prayer with countless “Welcome Back!” hugs from longtime friends and I.H.M. sisters, new students who are fresh out of high school and in need of some serious college-sisterly guidance and even family-style dinners and nightly dance parties with my roommates.
Though a proper performance to the Backstreet Boys in our kitchen/stage may not appease my craving for deep, lasting communion, it does activate a part of my heart and soul that lets this hunger be awakened in a lively and entertaining way.
And so, after a week of wrestling with these inner “grumblings,” I find myself thanking God for these pangs of hunger that have reminded me who it is I am really hungry for. In many ways, they’re becoming a barometer for my relationship with the Lord; the hungrier I am, the more I seek him.
I see now that, much like my mom did once I got a little older, the Lord is letting me help him unpack the load of graces he’s gathered for me. I find myself savoring each new morsel that he continues to surprise me with — and in a way, that makes them all the sweeter.
Perhaps St. Teresa of Avila wasn’t kidding when she told her spiritual daughters that “God walks among the pots and pans,” and it seems like he’s in the “empty-the-dishwasher” dance parties too.
Laura Lindmeier is a senior at Immaculate University majoring in English secondary education and theology.
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