Here in Gaming, everywhere we look is absolute craziness. 5 a.m. starts and 1 a.m. nights, missing trains and running to catch one-minute connections, waking up 10 minutes before class on Monday and realizing that you forgot to do your homework during your weekend in Paris… Honestly, it can get pretty frustrating.
I don’t think I’ve had any similar experiences at any other time in my life, that is, any long periods of time during which my entire routine was just go, go, go.
However, I have to admit that this semester has somehow also been one of the most peaceful periods of my life. Despite the intense travel schedules, there’s something about living in Gaming that really helps me to pray and reflect.
First of all, Gaming is absolutely beautiful. The hills are always watching over you, and seeing them enveloped in mist or turning orange for the first time is a sight to behold. The air is brisk, and you can go on either a relaxing walk or an adventurous hike at any time. And don’t even get me started on the stargazing: If it’s a very clear night, you can see more stars than you ever could have imagined!
Coming from urban New England and then living in Steubenville, I’ve never had the experience of residing in such a peaceful environment for such a long time. And never before have I appreciated how much such a beautiful and secluded place is conducive to prayer and meditation.
What better segue into prayer is there than beauty that points you to the Creator, than silence that allows you to hear his voice for the first time in so long? Yes, balancing travel and school can be stressful, but in difficult times, all I need is a walk outdoors to clear my head.
Currently, I am traveling in Assisi, and yesterday, we Franciscan students did a hike to an old Franciscan hermitage. It was an hour-long hike up the hill that the hermitage was on, and the hike must be made in silence. At the top were caves that friars once slept in and many hiking trails, which you must once again walk in silence. Obviously, these Franciscan brothers saw what I am describing: that the beauty and seclusion that their hilltop offered them was priceless. Whenever they needed to get away from the world and refocus on God, this is where they’d go.
Compared to a place like Steubenville, Gaming is a bit like this hermitage — so far away, so peaceful, so beautiful.
Another reason I feel that I’ve been able to grow and really think clearly in Gaming is because it is such a new place and so apart from everyone and everything I know. Distance, I believe, helps you to judge things very objectively, as you are currently uninvolved in them. And it makes you realize what things are and aren’t important.
For example, there are many friends of mine on main campus that I dearly miss. Finding happiness in the thought of them even while not being able to enjoy their company is a sign that these are good friendships and good people that I need to cherish. Another example is Wi–Fi — we don’t have it here in the Kartause dorms. While I often complained about this at first, having it taken away has made me realize that I really don’t need to use it as much as I do on campus.
Also, because we are all so busy in Austria, we are forced to prioritize certain parts of our lives because we don’t have time for everything. That’s another thing you have to reflect on — what’s most important to you. Is what’s most important to you really what’s most important?
For all these reasons and more, I feel that I’ve truly learned a lot about who I am, what I want and what is important this semester. Gaming, by offering me a great setting to pray and meditate and by giving me many incentives to do so, has proved itself an important stop on my journey to holiness.