Sunday, May 8, 2011

Faith, Learning, & Vocation

I wrote this profile for my alma mater about a year before I started Dingo Prayer. My mom requested that I add it to the blog, and a wise son pays attention to those requests. Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

My experience at St. Norbert College taught me to recognize the value of my faith and strengthened my confidence to live it with others. My core values stem from Presbyterian roots, Scots who anchored their faith with daily readings from the Bible. I grew up hearing stories about family elders who were pastors and activist women, all inspired by a priority centered in the Torah and repeated in the Gospels: And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

I didn’t know who the Norbertines were when I arrived at St. Norbert College, and I wasn’t a Catholic. What soon struck me was how the Norbertines and the college shared with my family the same fundamental understanding of faith. The Rule of Augustine – instructions penned a thousand years ago to center on God while living with people – is the foundation of the Norbertine mission, and it begins with a command: Let us love God above all things, then our neighbor, for these are the chief commandments given to us.

What had been a family motto was renewed as a radical spiritual path: loving God through loving others became my base as I explored my faith at St. Norbert College, and I found there an authentic community where I was both challenged and loved while developing relationships and my life goals. Loving others is challenging and living with them even harder, and the Norbertines are honest and direct about how that fundamental command shapes their lives. Their witness to that radical ideal quietly shapes and inspires the students who call the college home.
The lessons I learned at St. Norbert remain authentic: I am happiest when I focus my identity on loving God than just my identity as a professional. Despite daily battles with selfishness and self-importance, remembering to focus on God has led to my proudest achievements and my best relationships. Whether as a Jesuit Volunteer serving the homeless in North Philadelphia or as a fundraiser in the Twin Cities, by lessening the importance of What I am doing and instead emphasizing the How my life is centered on God helps me to focus better on loving those around me. That skill is the true gift of my St. Norbert College experience.    

Andrew McIlree, ‘06

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Calcutta 1968

Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama, 1968

And so I stand among you as one who offers a small message of hope, that first, there are always people who dare to seek on the margin of society, who are not dependent on social acceptance, not dependent on social routine, and prefer a kind of free-floating existence under a state of risk. And among those people, if they are faithful to their own calling, to their own vocation, and to their own message from God, communication on the deepest level is possible.

And the deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless. It is beyond words, and it is beyond speech, and it is beyond concept. Not that we discover a new unity. We discover an older unity. My dear brothers, we are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity.
What we have to be is what we are.
from "Informal talk delivered at Calcutta, October 1968"
The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, 1973