By Fr. Gary Chamberland, C.S.C.
When I was little, boredom was not allowed. If one of us kids said that there was nothing to do, my mother quickly came up with options to help fill the void. One of her favorite suggestions was, "You could always dust the living room." Just the thought of it helped to clarify the manifold possibilities for amusement that existed outside – beyond the range of the dust rag. I have a friend whose mother was even more pointed. If he or his sisters ever said "I'm bored," his mother always fired back the same response. She looked right at them and announced, "No. You're boring."
This week, we find ourselves at the start of another academic year. For me, it has felt like a sprint so far with endless meetings to attend, prayers to pray and homilies to give. As I watch others scurry about me, greeting old friends and making new ones, buying books, changing class schedules and preparing for the year to come, I am aware, however, that the year before us is really not a sprint but a marathon. The possibilities for amusement and personal growth and intellectual stimulation and service to others at this place (and in this city) are almost without limit. If nothing else, one can always hop the 44 bus to downtown for an afternoon in Pioneer Square or take a walk up Willamette Boulevard to explore the soaring arches and majestic beauty of Cathedral Park. Either possibility will enliven your soul and free you from the joys of calculus or anatomy for an hour or so.
In fact, it seems to me that boredom should be impossible at UP, as the possibilities far exceed the available hours in any given day, week or semester. The question is really, how do you fit it all in? As you will find tomorrow at the Activities Fair (and Sunday evening at the Campus Ministry Activities Fair), the smorgasbord of choices laid before you can be bedazzling, and you may be tempted to drop those pesky classes in order to find a little more free time.
In the next few days and weeks, as you consider the panoply of possibilities for clubs, activities and service opportunities that will fill up the holes in your schedules, I urge you to take seriously the opportunities that are available to grow spiritually. Just as it is important that we stretch our intellect and exercise our bodies, it is necessary that we use and develop our faculties for prayer and deepen our relationship with God. If we wish to be fully developed whole persons – it is required.
So consider the many paths before you. Join FISH or Catholic UP and dive into the network of spiritual friendships that will change your life. There is Monday Night Praise and Fellowship in the St. André Chapel or Wednesday night praise, worship and fellowship at FISH. There are bible studies in every hall as well as others directed by and for nurses, ROTC students and other affinity groups. Plan to go to Coffee and Catholicism and enter the discussion of various topics of faith and faithful living. Commit to attending "Votum" on Thursday nights and experience different forms of communal prayer. Gather with others on Saturday, to pray a simple rosary together, soften your heart and change the world with prayer. Attend hall Mass and grow in the love God while deepening your sense of community and your responsibility to care for your brothers and sisters. If you are Mormon, join the LDS group, or Jewish, the Jewish fellowship group, and met others who are striving to deepen their faith together. We also have a Greek Orthodox student who is looking to find others for Sunday worship and fellowship.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Women help to foster healthy and strong relationships among men and women respectively and are wonderful means to self-understanding and personal development. The Encounter retreat, the Confirmation program and the RCIA process all need committed folks to serve others as team members. Imagine growing in your own faith, by presenting sessions on prayer, spirituality, history or theology to others who are attempting to grow in their own faith.
Use the talents God has given you: join the Chapel Choir, your hall Mass choir or the FISH music group and bring the gift of song to others. As St. Augustine reminds us, "To sing is to pray twice." If your voice is not a source of joy for others, serve in some other way.
Head over to the Moreau Center and explore the possibilities for tutoring or helping the homeless or spending a school break on a service plunge. Visit the Downtown Chapel and serve at the Br. André Café.
The possibilities are limitless and it is all right here for the experiencing. So, as we gather to begin another year on The Bluff, I hope that each one of us makes some effort to grow in our faith, serve God in some meaningful way and see the face of Christ in those around us. It doesn't all have to happen today, for the year is long and, remember, it is a marathon rather than a sprint. However, time has a habit of sliding by and, though it may not seem so when you are sitting in statistics class, the year will be over sooner than you think.
So, check out the possibilities, make a plan, commit to some activity or means for spiritual growth, and get to it. Don't be boring. It's all fun and it sure beats dusting the living room.