Christ's gaze. You know it when you see it. It's that intense look people give you that is so filled with love, your heart melts. And it's not in the romantic sense. I remember in college when I started looking for Christ's gaze, that I first found it (or Him??) in an old man who was a volunteer for the Red Cross. It's a look that shakes you, but more so, makes you see that there really is Good in the world--something to live for.
We are reading a section in my weekly CL meetings about loving yourself the way that God loves you, not by the false expectations we put on ourselves. And the only way you can know how God loves you is through that look of Christ that we get from others in our daily lives.
I was trying to prepare for this meeting and asked myself, "Who looks at me this way? For all my faults, my betrayals, but also with profound honor and respect? Who sees me for what I was really made for, not necessarily only based on my efforts?"
Incredibly, a long list of people came to mind: Fr. Rick, my spiritual direction and priest at St. John's the Evangelist, downtown who, no matter how busy he is, always makes time for me. My mom who I'm sure I've betrayed more than I even know and who I come crying to often (even when I make stupid decisions.) My closest friends in CL here in Indianapolis: Caitlin, Ali, David, Davide, but even those who are in different states; Chris, Roland, Monik, Fedi, people who really see the greatness that we were all made for.
But what I'm going to say this week at SofC actually came in my reality yesterday when I was cleaning my apartment and found an address for a friend, Julia, who is now a sister at the Little Sisters of the Poor in Queens, NY. We are trying to get together a package of notes and letters for her, since she isn't really allowed contact with anyone, and I've been trying to write her one all week!
So, I finally started writing this note and through it, realized the immense impact that she has had on my life. Julia, now Sister Gemma, was a classmate of mine at USI in my first day of classes my freshman year. Although she was an introvert, I am not and we started talking, found out we were both Catholic and she invited me to go to Mass with her. I always hear of stories where college students are having a really hard time finding people who share similar interests and values as them--for me, this was never the struggle. It was simply as easy as meeting her.
Over time, Julia and I developed a close friendship. She was the first person my age who I could see really loved her faith, but not at the expense of herself--her interests, her personality. She had hilarious quirks, and was still striving for holiness. Until that point, religious people were "weird" or unattainable to have friendship with...Julia was cool!!!
As probably most Catholics who leave their Catholic bubble and go to a public university, I really struggled with questions of why the Church did certain things and why we believed what we did. I even was part of a Christian group who challenged that even further. However, Julia's friendship (along with my mom, and priests from my childhood) saved me. She was someone I could ask questions to and if she didn't know the answer, she looked it up! She recommended books, invited me into friendship with other Catholics who lived like her and was just simply herself. Julia is the most unassuming, humble girl you'll ever meet. And with my pride, this characteristic is simply refreshing!
All in all, my own commitment to the Catholic faith came in that freshman year with the help of her example and friendship. The "ripple effect" of that friendship has lasted seven years of being in Communion and Liberation and leading several of the small groups at the university level and now in Indianapolis. It has contributed to my love of Mass and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I can't imagine what kind of girl I would be without her and I was so thankful that we got to share two years of school together!
Now, life continues. With the memory of the way Julia looked at me, I can have mercy on myself and others. I was so happy to be reminded of the miracle of our friendship yesterday through writing her that note (that actually turned into a little bit of a letter!) May God continue to bless my life with these characters that always make me move with joy!