Semester in Austria

So, I stopped posting these past few months, and here’s why…

I’ve been studying abroad in Austria! The picture above is of the old Cartesian monastery which I and about 200 other students called home.

I decided that I would not be writing posts over this semester because I wanted to stay focused on school and experiencing the moment when traveling (and I was very busy indeed).

This semester has been hectic, challenging, and awe-inspiring. People have said this trip can be life-changing, and to be honest it both was and wasn’t as I expected. I’ve traveled across so many countries throughout Europe with a great group of friends and also learned so much from my classes. On the other hand, both traveling and academics were way more challenging than I hoped—I’ve gotten hopelessly lost and hopelessly bad test grades—but in the end I’ve learned that with great perseverance and trust in God, we can achieve far more than we ever think. I’ve also seen way more countries, cultures, and amazing sights than I could have imagined, but I’ve learned that it really is about those you travel with and meet along the way. Though all the sights I’ve seen were amazing, I’ve honestly grown so much more from the challenges of traveling than from visiting the sights themselves. And I’ve seen probably a hundred awe-inspiring religious sites, yet I’ve realized that we don’t need to travel to such places to be close to God.

Here’s a few of the highlights:

In Austria, I learned how to get lost—that is, that even in such situations I can trust God will take care of me. In Vienna, I had to learn to follow a map and, more importantly, to trust myself. Once I knew I could find my own way, being separated from the group wasn’t so scary. Then on the hike to Mariazell, my friends and I got hopelessly lost—but being together made all the difference. We hiked all day and so never got to explore Mariazell in the daylight, but we did get to spend many hours of quality time together (and I certainly got to practice perseverance and trust in the Lord.) If you would have told me we would hike over an entire mountain, I would never have thought it possible—but we did just that, and it was both utterly exhausting and inspiring.

In Poland, I saw places where grave horrors occurred as well as the lives of great saints. At Auschwitz, I heard stories of both the worst and the best of men, of both the tortures executed by Nazi soldiers and the sacrifice of St. Maximilian Kolbe. I learned the importance of speaking out against injustice, upholding the dignity of the human person, and responding with prayer and compassion. At the Shrine of Divine Mercy, we recalled the great mercy of God to man, and the tremendous graces he offers, that we may not be afraid to be saints.

In Rome and Assisi, I visited so many incredible historical and religious sites—our university is so privileged, we even got to go to Mass in St. Peter’s and beside St. Francis’ tomb. I glimpsed the bones of St. Peter, the Catacombs, and relics of the true Cross. And yet, I realized that we can be even still closer to God than when we are sitting beside a grace-filled saint or relic. In any Catholic Church, in any country, in our own home town, we can meet Christ Himself in the Eucharist. He is truly present there in a way even more intimate than when He is with us even beside St. Peter’s bones or a relic of the true cross. I realized once again what an amazing gift Christ is offering us, one which is so easily accessible at my university in particular and we should never take for granted.

At Lourdes, I served on mission helping the sick and disabled to the grotto where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette. I was pleasantly surprised that we got to sing for Mass in the grotto, receive a bath in the blessed water, and bring up the gifts for a beautiful international Mass. I was touched by how the universal Church came to life in Lourdes, and even moreso by how our mission team and pilgrims began to feel like family. I realized even more acutely how the Catholic Church is our family. Wherever we go, if we are at peace with God, we can find a home in Christ’s Church. Furthermore, I found joy in doing simple tasks to help the pilgrims—as St. Therese and Mother Theresa always say, “we need not do great things—only little things with great love.”

That’s all for now!

God bless and keep you,

~Beloved Dreamer~

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