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Four Years at the Mount

Four Pillar New Year's Resolutions

(January, 2013)

Faith - Leaping into the New Year with Saint Francis

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

Faith exists throughout the Mount campus. Whether it is in the students, in the Seminarians, or in the chapels, it is a presence that cannot be ignored. Yet, among the various holy people and places, the holiest spot of all has to be the Grotto. Since 1728, the Grotto has served as a place of religious freedom. It has been said to be one of the loveliest places in the world. It is a place of worship and it is without question a place of faith.

During the beginning of the school year, I would jog from my dorm up to the Grotto for exercise. Anyone who has ever been up to the Grotto knows how challenging this would be. One can only travel to the Grotto by going uphill. I would try my hardest to keep my pace as I jogged up St. Maryís Mountain, and I would often be delighted to hear the bells chime from my destination. I persistently would run as the bells rang around the mountain and across the valley below me. Arriving at the Grotto was completely satisfying. In silence, I would stand overlooking the valley below me. In contemplation I would think that this place undoubtedly had to have been made by God. With the sun setting behind the mountain, everything that lay before me was outlined in sunlight. The mountains outlined the horizon. The landscape was made up of acres of green grass, countless trees, scattered houses, and spots of cows. As I would walk through the Grotto, I would reflect on everything around me. One day I stumbled upon St. Francisí Prayer.

For my New Yearís resolution of 2013, I want to live my life in accordance to St. Francisí Prayer. The prayer outlines how we should live a faith-based life throughout our daily actions. "O Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace!"

"Where there is hatred, let me sow love." Hatred can be found wherever we may look. It is caused by hurt feelings, conflict, and even misunderstandings. It screams out in cruel forces that cause trouble, anger, and pain. Hatred can be found in school, in the workplace, in families and within oneís self. Hatred destroys what is beautiful. With all the time and energy spent on hating, one could instead positively impact the world with oneís affection. In demeaning situations, in others and in oneís self, love must be sown. Love must be planted and overtake existing hate. Love must end the destruction and rebuild the beauty. I resolve to sow love around me and within myself, for it is in loving our brothers and sisters that we show our faith.

"Where there is injury, pardon." Too often, we hold onto grudges and past events. We hold out on forgiving those who have caused us pain or injury and we refuse to forgive. But to live in faith, we each must forgive each other, even if we do not receive an apology. Forgiveness is the solution to some of our most difficult struggles. It allows us to move forward, though it is often easier said than done. Forgiveness has to be accepted in our minds and in our hearts before it can take place. The mistakes others have made and the mistakes we have made ourselves need to be recognized before they can be forgiven. I resolve to pardon when there is injury, for it is only in forgiveness that we can grow in faith.

"Where there is discord, harmony." Disagreement can be found among us all. No two people think, feel, or act in ways with which others necessarily agree. Often people make the agreement to disagree. I am not in favor of this compromise because in the end, it is just contradictory. What I have learned is that when in disagreement, we must settle on common ground. This might not be easy and the common ground might end up being something very basic, but it is important that disputes end in some sort of harmony, even if it is at the most basic level. I resolve to make harmony where there is discord, for it is only in agreement that we can share our faith.

"Where there is doubt, faith." Uncertainty lies in everything in our daily lives. There can be uncertainty in everyday things such as meals or expectations. It can exist in physical directions and also in directions taken during our lives. There can also be uncertainty in beliefs at troubling times, yet one must have faith. One must put complete trust in the Lord to lead the way and erase the doubt that lies ahead. I resolve to have faith where there is doubt.

"Where there is despair, hope." Throughout life, it is rare to not experience a moment of complete loss of hope. During the never-ending commotion and chaos of everything around us, the heartache we feel over the sickness or loss of loved ones, or the days when everything seems to be going wrong, despair is hard to conquer. It weighs down on our shoulders, on our minds and on our hearts. It is in these times that we must have desire, trust and optimism. We must have hope. Hope for the health and happiness of our loved ones. Hope for the chaos to be sorted. Hope for God to watch over our brothers and sisters in their time of need. Hope for God to shelter each and every one of us throughout our time on Earth. Hope that overpowers despair. I resolve to have hope where there is despair, for it is in hoping that we find faith.

"Where there is darkness, light." The world and life are dark without God. Without light, we hide behind fear in the darkness of the shadows. God must be the light to illuminate the dark that prevails. Light must be shined on the gloomy areas of the world. God must have a spark to brighten the darkness in the people and places around us. We must be the sparks. We must desire to live in the light of God. When we travel into places that are dimly lit, we must carry our light and encourage those hiding in the shadows to step into the brightness of God. I resolve to bring light where there is darkness, for it is only in the light of God that faith can be found.

"Where there is sorrow, joy." It is often thought that sorrow can only be healed by time, but the greatest healer is actually pleasure. It is when we see the sadness in our neighborsí eyes or hear it in their words that we must bring them joy. Joy can be as simple as a conversation, a card, or a thoughtful gift. Sorrow is often suffered in solitude. To bring joy, we must remind those in distress that we care and that we are always a shoulder on which they can lean. It is in the happiness of others that joy is spread. A mere smile can be contagious. I resolve to bring joy where there is sorrow, for it is joy that transpires faith.

"Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life."

It is in all the words of this prayer that we must remember to put others before ourselves. The prayer of St. Francis is a model of how we should live our lives in faith individually and in a community. It asks nothing of us that we cannot give and it leads us on the path of righteousness towards God.

This New Year, I resolve to grow in faith through actively living St. Francisí prayer. I will constantly be reminded of my resolution as I hear the bells from the Grotto ring every hour. This New Year, I will become an instrument of faith in the Lord.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen


Discovery - Myself Within The Pages

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

(1/2013) Itís been a fantastic year for all of us at Mount St. Maryís University. Itís been a year of late nights, early mornings and brand new experiences. After all of these things, the year has left us stronger and better. It certainly has been a year of valuable lessons (and weíve managed to survive yet another Mayan apocalypse!) and also a year filled with chances to consider the way we want to grow and the people we wish to become.

Iím speaking, of course, of resolutions, those promises that we make to ourselves in an effort to make a positive change in our lives. Many times we think about hitting the gym, dedicating ourselves more to work and less to procrastination, or eating healthier. This year however, I ask you to consider a resolution about discovery: learning more about yourself and the world around you. Iím talking about reading.

Reading may seem like an unimportant activity, but as our world continually seems to get smaller and smaller and the journey of progress moves on and on, the written word continually grows in value. Letters, books, and even tiny post-it notes given to us by someone we love and care for have inestimable worth. Despite this, the world of books is often a world overlooked by us, myself included. We have cell phones, social media, and emails. When we want to check on someoneís day, we shoot him or her a text, or post on his or her Facebook wall. Gone are the days when men and women would actually write something on a piece of paper and spend days waiting anxiously for a reply. If the day is dragging on and we find ourselves in need of something to do, the first thing we reach for is a television remote or an X-Box controller rather than a well-written text. Even when reading needs to be done for class or work, the advent of search engines has almost abolished the need to pick up a book. Thanks to Internet databases like EBSCOhost, and JSTOR, anyone can access top-notch literary analyses without putting a finger to the page. Not only that, but websites like SparkNotes and Wikipedia mean that a detailed summary of almost any piece of written work isnít far from our reach.

While these developments have proven incredibly useful to me as a student, they have also taken me away from the books that I love. I found myself at a crossroads earlier this year. I had two papers due on two towering pieces of literature, and there I was sitting at my table in the library with nothing but a computer in front of me. Sure, I had both texts on my computer, but I couldnít shake the feeling that I was completely disconnected from the words and meanings found in those books while staring at my monitor. To make it even worse, I was surrounded by an immense breadth of human knowledge housed on the shelves of our library and I realized that I hadnít read a single book that the great library had to offer me.

I closed my laptop took a deep breath from the stresses of paper writing and gave myself a moment to peruse the shelves, to run my hand across the spines of the books. The minute I picked one up and felt the comfortable weight in my hands, relishing in the sound of pages flipping, I realized that I was missing out on something integral to my existence. I spent 45 minutes completely isolated from the stresses of the Honors program, insulated by a shield of literature. In those 45 minutes, I learned about cutting edge agricultural research that was being done by university graduates. I was teleported from Emmitsburg, Maryland onto a raft hurtling down the Mississippi river with a young runaway. Without realizing it, I had experienced an incredible depth of adventure in such a short amount of time because of what I had read. It was at that moment that I realized how much I missed reading and how I was missing out on a chance to rediscover who I was in between the single space type.

Sadly, my work called to me and I wound up having to leave the warm embrace of those pages for the chill of plastic keys. Throughout the semester though, memories of the words I had left behind returned to me. One day I passed by the shelf of untouched books in my room and wondered if I should finally take the time to flop on my futon and ignore my TV for a few hours. I thought about reading one of the wonderful books to pass the time, and as archaic as it sounds, for fun! Finally, as I spent New Yearís Eve with my family and happily rang in 2013 with the ones I love, I made a resolution to hit the library and the bookstore rather than hit the gym.

Nostalgia benefits aside, being able to curl upstairs next to our bookshelf has provided me with a chance to discover, and in some cases rediscover things about myself that I had missed prior to my New Yearís resolution. A prime example of this quest for self-discovery has been my third time reading Joseph Conradís amazing novel Heart Of Darkness. After covering Heart of Darkness in my Modern Civilization class at the Mount, I realized how much I loved Conradís use of the English language. He can draw me into the plot of a novel while leaving me to find out what the characters and symbols in the story are meant to me. Moments like that have made me realize that I truly missed reading and the way a good book can make me feel on top of the world.

So this year, while youíre cleaning up after your New Yearís party wondering what it is youíll dedicate yourself to, keep this in mind: what really made this New Yearís resolution stick was my decision to take on what seemed like a monumental task in small increments. I devoted 30 minutes of each day to turning off all my electronics and sitting down with a good book. Think about sitting down for a moment, putting down your phone, turning off the TV, and letting your mind take you places youíve never been before. Iím Kyle Ott. Wonít you sit and read for a while? You may like what you find.

Read other articles by Kyle Ott


Community - An Email from God

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to give blood for the first time. I admit, a small part of me was nervous as I sat, waiting to be taken behind the curtains to be evaluated. What were they going to ask me? Would I be able to donate?

I thought I might find some solace in a friend who had donated blood before. Instead, she shared her horror stories. An inexperienced nurse had to stab both of her arms several times apiece before successfully tapping her vein. Another nurse pierced all the way through her vein causing a large bruise to spread across her arm. Well, great, that makes me feel better.

Soon Iím called behind a curtain to answer some quick questions before donating. The nurse working with me was a motherly African American woman with a large smile. She chatted to me about her day as she reviewed my results from the medical questionnaire. During the conversation, she glanced over the fact that she had to wake up at 4:30am every day in order to make the two-hour commute to her job. A quote suddenly popped into my head from the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which says, "I just want you to know that youíre very special and the only reason Iím telling you is that I donít know if anyone else ever has."

With this quote prompting me, I took a moment to thank the nurse for her daily sacrifice and tell her that her work made a difference in the lives of others. She paused, looked me in the eye, and said, "Thank you." I donít think anyone had ever told her that before.

It wasnít long before I found myself reclining on a gurney, arm stretched out as the nurse disinfected the chosen area before inserting the needle. I was one of the last people giving blood, so as I lay there, the rest of the nursing staff began packing up the equipment. They laughed and chatted with each other, singing along to the music playing from someoneís laptop. It was clear they were a family and loved what they did, even if they did have to wake up at 4:30am to do it.

I couldnít help but think how underappreciated people like these nurses were. Volunteers and blue-collar workers make up the foundation of all businesses and organizations, arguably filling some of societyís most important roles. It is through the efforts of these men and women that the lives of everyone around them are made simpler and more enjoyable.

At some point while those nurses danced around me belting out Christmas carols, I realized that I wanted to be one of these everyday heroes. I wanted to improve the lives of those in my community and not expect anything in return. Just do it because I love it.

Two days later, I received an email that offered me just the opportunity I needed to fulfill this wish.

For the past four years, I have volunteered at the Carroll County 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program (TRP) in my hometown of Westminster. One of my classes at the Mount required me to partner up with a non-profit organization to create a media piece Ė an article, website, brochure or similar Ė which would help the organization. My natural choice was TRP. Apparently word spread within the organization about what I was doing and it wasnít long before one of the women I used to work with, Susan Withnell, sent me an email with the opportunity of a lifetime.

In her message Withnell told me about some of the struggles TRP had recently been facing. The program, which provides horseback riding lessons for the physically, mentally and emotionally handicapped, was suffering from an extreme lack of volunteers. In fact, they were dangerously close to being unable to open for their fall session because not enough people were coming forward to donate their time. The retirement of dedicated long-time volunteers left administrative positions unfilled. Volunteer riding instructors were aging and in low supply. New, young volunteers needed to step up and take over the program before it disappeared altogether.

My recent media project had turned a light bulb on in Withnellís mind. She remembered me from my time volunteering at TRP and thought I would be the perfect person to intern under her. Her intent was for me to become a riding instructor at TRP Ė a job I had never considered until this email.

I couldnít stop crying as I read and re-read her kind and excited words. I knew in my heart this was exactly what I was supposed to do. As soon as I had decided in my heart just two days earlier to make a difference in the lives of those around me, God had worked it in the heart of Susan Withnell to reach out to me with this opportunity. It was too immediate, too coincidental for it to have been anything but divine Providence.

I did have one small fear, however. Did Withnell know that I was only a junior in college? Sheíd have to wait until 2014 before I would be able to dedicate the time necessary for the position. I asked her and waited with bated breath to see if she was willing to wait that long. Maybe there was someone else who could fill the need more immediately.

I woke up the next day and went straight to my computer to check my email. Withnell had responded, "I knew that you were a junior," she said assuring me that it wasnít a problem; she was willing to wait for me to graduate and take the position. I canít explain the joy I felt.

In the meantime, I look forward to the classes and internship hours required to be a certified therapeutic riding instructor. I must take first aid/CPR classes, complete online exams, have 25 hours of teaching under the supervision of a certified instructor and be tested in my knowledge and abilities with horses and disabled individuals. It will undoubtedly be a long process, but I am so eager for the end result.

For once I will actually follow through with my New Yearís resolution and be able to fulfill what God created me and all other volunteers for Ė helping others and bettering my community.

Read other articles by Nicole Jones


Leadership - Make a Difference

Samantha Strub
Class of 2013

"This is for you, Miss Strub! I just wanted to thank you for being an amazing teacher."

"Miss Strub, Iím going to miss you as a teacher so much! Please donít leave."

"Miss Strub, Iím going to miss your stylish clothes, cool nail polish, vocabulary games and advice. Thank you for being my favorite teacher!"

"Miss Strub, please promise that you will come back and visit us."

"Miss Strub, thank you for helping and believing in me. You are an inspiration!"

As the final day of my internship came to a close my emotions went into overdrive. All day, students were coming up to me giving me hugs, notes, and sometimes gifts. They were all telling me that they were going to miss me and that I was their favorite teacher. Even the students I had to punish or reprimand on a daily basis were giving me a hug and thanking me for everything that I have done and shown them. Needless to say, I was either in tears or on the brink of tears all day long.

Once all the students left, I walked around the building and reminisced about all the events that happened last semester. My mind went back to all of the different situations that I was faced with throughout the day. These memories included rejoicing over my studentsí successes, settling disputes, and disciplining them by sending them to detention.

My thoughts went back to those students I had to reprimand on a daily basis. The reprimanding was for any given number of things, such as throwing paper, leaving books on the floor, passing notes, not listening, talking while the teacher is talking, being out of the dress code, being disrespectful, etc. I had to act like a firm mother hen to these students. Most of the time, it felt like they just liked to hear me say the same thing numerous times a day. I was constantly repeating myself, seemingly without any progress. As I reflected on the notes I received upon the end of my internship, I realized that many of them were from the students that I reprimanded on a daily basis. These students were telling me that they were going to miss having me as a teacher, and they would miss my outfits, shoes and nail polish. It was these students who were telling me that I was an inspiration to them and thanking me for believing in them and helping them succeed. The tears started to stream down my face when I realized my hard work had paid offóIíve become an inspiration and role model to my students.

This realization was interrupted by five middle school girls who were looking for me. They wanted to give me a hug and take a picture with me so they would always have something by which to remember me. They asked me to always remember them and to please come visit them once I graduate. One girl, Mary, asked if I would please return next year and teach them again because I was her favorite teacher. I thanked them and said I will try. Suddenly, these girls became very serious and said that they were wondering if I could give them some advice. Of course I said, "Sure! What is going on?" The girls then asked me for advice about boys and relationships. In particular, they asked if they should tell the boys they like that they like them, and if so, how should they tell them? They wanted to know if they were ever going to have a boyfriend and why they werenít good enough for boys to like them.

At first I was taken aback by all of their questions and I scrambled for something to say to them. As I was thinking, I looked down at their hopeful faces and realized that they trusted me with this valuable and important information. They were asking me for advice on a subject that they probably wouldnít want to ask their parents about, as that is not something middle school students typically want to discuss with their parents. These five girls were looking to me as a role model. I was the leader making a difference in these girlsí lives. I suddenly knew exactly what to say.

I proceed to explain to these girls that they do not need a boyfriend to make them happy. They should focus on themselves and the talents they can use to help change the world. One day, they would have a happy ending. I told them that they are beautiful inside and out. As I continued on my relationship advice soap box, the girls were gazing at me with wide eyes and open ears.

It was through giving this advice about relationships and my memories with the troublemakers that I realized the impact that I had on these studentsí lives. I was being the leader that Iím called to be as a teacher and I was making a difference in my studentsí lives. My dream of being a role model, leader and inspiration to others was coming true.

I had always believed that through teaching, one guides the younger generations. A teacher provides the youth with more than just instruction. A teacher is a role model for them to look up to, and a teacher acts as a trustworthy figure in which students can confide. A good teacher tells and explains, but a great teacher inspires. Teachers prepare the youth to educate themselves throughout their lives. Teachers help students love to learn and inspire them to make a difference in the world.

Teachers are leaders in the world because they have a lasting impact on studentsí lives in more than just the content they teach. They are there to show children the truths of History, English, Spanish, Math, etc., but the instruction goes beyond just the lesson plan. There is also importance in the impression you make through the interaction and conversation you have with your students. It meant the world to my students that I listened to them and put them first, no matter how busy I was. I made sure they knew that I thought they were important. I answered and clarified questions that they had. I became a constant cheery face and always had something new to share. I made a difference by becoming a role model for my students, someone to which they could turn to for advice and support.

This New Year, Iím returning to the Mountís campus. I plan to continue being a leader and making a difference. When I begin teaching in the fall, I will continue being an inspiration and a role model to my students. Until then, I will be a leader on campus through my role as a Mount Ambassador. I will focus on the tours I give and the people I encounter as a result of the tours. I will show them the unique Mount spirit that they will not find anywhere else. The information I give will inevitably make an impact on the impression that these prospective students will have about The Mount. It could make a difference in where they ultimately choose to go to school.

I will also focus on making a difference in the lives of the people that I encounter on a daily basis. This will include my classmates, co-workers and people with physical and mental disabilities that I encounter through my work with the Arc of Frederick County. I will particularly focus on the impact I make on the lives of the individuals for which I provide respite care and skills education. I will be assisting them in what seems like simple tasks to many, but I know my assistance really means the world to them because they are tasks that are very difficult for them. Iím a leader to Elisha, the woman that I have worked with for the past year, because I assist and support her in tasks and activities that mean so much to her. It was through my support and leadership that we have grown very close. Elisha and I can have long discussions on a variety of topics or simply take a walk in silence and be content. It is through growing so close to her that I realized the important role that I play in her life. It is so important for me to make a difference providing hope, support and happiness for someone who needs it so much.

My New Yearís resolution is to make a difference by being a leader. How will you be a leader? How will you make a difference?

Read other articles by Samantha Strub

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