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The purpose driven life

Andrew DeBerry | Thursday, August 21, 2003

In four years you won’t be the same person. That dynamic change begins now. You hit the ground running as a freshman. You break away from the tragedies and glories of high school and find new ways of connecting to old friends and family. You’re freer to be an individual and to focus more on your character than your reputation. The independence can be disorienting, and students at Freshman Retreats describe similar struggles finding their way, whether in studying, activities, dating, partying or prayer.This is a key year to ask the bigger questions, to ask why often and dig deeply to determine even one’s purpose for living. Scripture says simply that our ultimate purpose is to love God and each other. But determining how can be more difficult. Underclassmen are challenged right off to choose a major. Three questions must be asked. What are you good at? How can that bring you joy? And how can that be used to help others? The world has never had you before. You are needed to bring together unique talents and passions in a way never seen before.You may find many of your answers early in the Center for Social Concerns. The CSC is one little building with a global reach. Discover inside life-saving work that satisfies the heart by joining diverse volunteer organizations that come together at the CSC. Find support for an activity you want to pursue. Learn about opportunities for student leadership. Or check out the service-learning immersion experiences over school breaks. Drop in for a visit, even if you don’t think you’re “into” service. Too many seniors graduate regretting not having been more involved at the Center.The spirit of this place will also leave an indelible mark on you. You quickly learn that no school can match the Irish spirit. That energy takes root in our school’s unshakable faith. During good and bad moments, on momentous and ordinary days, in times of decision, worries, fierce anger, or delirious happiness, sit in the quiet of a chapel or the Basilica and listen to the secrets God whispers through the peace within. Or take refuge in the heart of our campus, the Grotto. Discover why Doctor Dooley’s words on plaque nearby, taken from his 1960 deathbed letter, asks, “Do the students ever appreciate what they have while they have it?”The Grotto is also where you will meet with your class one last time four years from now on the Thursday night before Graduation. In that gathering are likely to be friends you’ll keep for life, friends who may be in your wedding and maybe even the one for whom you’ll say, “I do.” Parts of life here you don’t like will shape you also. Generations preceding you complained about the weather, the administration, rules, a lacking cultural diversity, a difficult dating scene and the infamous p-word. Yours will too. Maybe you will find inspiration in Notre Dame’s own beginnings. Father Edward Sorin dared parching frosts, malaria, cholera, food shortages and financial problems in beginning. Then a 1879 fire reduced most of his lifework to ashes. One account recalls Sorin’s reaction: “There was absolute faith, confidence and resolution in his very look and pose. ‘If it were all gone, I should not give up!’ were his words in closing. The effect was electric.” In another account Sorin says, “I came here as a young man and dreamed of building a great university in honor of Our Lady. But I built it too small, and she had to burn it to the ground to make that point. So, tomorrow, as soon as the bricks cool, we will rebuild it, bigger and better than ever.”Now our university is a renowned bastion of education and values. Our mission statement declares that the University seeks to cultivate in its students “a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice and oppression that burden the lives of so many.” If we graduate with a primary focus on having a successful career and a comfortable life, we are not worthy to call ourselves alumni of Notre Dame. The founders and leaders have worked too hard, hoped too much and given too much life to the character that is the cornerstone of this University for us not to follow. As Gaddi Vasquez, the director of the Peace Corps, recently said, “You can be the generation that makes service to others a way of life and not a condition of having extra time on your hands. You can be the architect of hope for those with the greatest needs in our society and throughout the world.”In you, the Class of 2007, is the power of mind and soul to make this happen. May God’s passion fill each of your days here and may His purpose drive your every step.

Andrew DeBerry is a senior Air Force ROTC aerospace engineering major. He can be contacted at adeberry@nd.edu. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.