I am a graduate of the Class of 2011. A year later, I was an alumni of the Augustinian Volunteer program. Looking back, that tumultuous period was a narrow time frame in an abundant life. And when my time had ended, my boss and mentor shared an important message with me about love. Leaving was still painful, but these words gave me meaning and perspective on my departure. In an unpredictable time, I hope they might offer some guidance for you all as well.
“There is nothing more practical than falling in love.” The author begins with the most quotable of quotes from Pedro Arrupe, S.J., the ‘second founder’ of the Jesuits. I am immediately reminded of the deep love I’ve felt for almost every place I’ve been blessed to call home in my adult life. Not the kind of love that disguises faults and disables criticism, but the kind that sees the Good by truly coming to know what makes a place. Namely, its people.
It is the people of a place that give it joy, that animate it with Christ’s love. They are also the reason for grief when one leaves. The knowledge that we’ll meet again doesn’t eliminate that empty feeling in my gut when I say goodbye to someone. But as the title to the post suggests, it’s not the final feeling. Busse, S.J. writes,
This unexpected marriage of Grief and Joy has given birth to a beautiful child. Her name is Gratitude.
Grief and Joy are like that really amazing couple, the one no one ever expects to stay together, only somehow they do. They are faithful lovers, and when we spend time with them we are reminded of what love is really about.
Grief and Joy host great parties where we all laugh and cry, drink and sing, and go home late, exhausted and mysteriously alive. We are held tightly by their love until we have no other option but to breathe our last sighs of gratitude and, as we go, understand again the gift of this life.
If we do come to know the people of a place, if we do fall in love with them, we cannot help but give thanks to God that they’ve been a part of our story.
On this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, the day we had hoped to watch our graduates walk across the stage in person to receive their diplomas, I’m filled with joy and grief and gratitude. Joy for all the moments of laughter I’ve shared with students throughout the years, grief at another Class gone on the blink of an eye, and gratitude for the gift that each one is individually.
Our second reading from 1 Corinthians reminds us that each of those persons is united in Christ. St. Paul writes, “Brothers and sisters: The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Cor 10:16-17). Distinct, yet unified. Particular, yet universal. There is a beauty in that which we are to one another. Each the fullness of Christ independently, yet collectively One. What a desperate reminder we all need of the dignity that lives in each of us, especially now. May it flourish in every single one of us.
Children’s stories often explore bravery, and Lucy finds what she calls ‘spooky’ rather compelling. She specifically asks to rewatch shows that scare her, essentially confronting the fear and only building her confidence even more. Able to anticipate the narrative, she slowly comes around to the idea that make-believe is precisely that: made up. It can’t hurt her, especially when she takes the guesswork out of it.
In that context, I recently had a conversation with her about being brave in loving. To love, I told her, is the bravest act she could ever do. In this world, we can dream, but we can never remove the guesswork. To love with abandon asks for faith and courage and hope, all while knowing that hurting is a part of life.
Leaving is a particularly damning hurt to me. Historically, when I am the one leaving, I can only process how deeply I feel with a good cry. Perhaps it’s the reason my friend gave me this article in the first place.
But what I do know is that it’s worth it. The kind of charity we are called to is worth every sacrifice. I want my kids to know that, biological and student alike. May you grieve Dartmouth well, find joy in your new home, and always be grateful for what you have. You’ve already given our community more than you can know!
Meg Costantini, M. Div.