“Go set the world on fire”. –St. Ignatius
Being at a Jesuit school means that you are bound to hear “classic” Jesuit phrases over and over again during your academic career. It also (hopefully) means a lot of growth in academics, spiritually, and who you are or who you want to become. Given this growth, “classic Jesuit phrases change and grow if we are attentive and reflect on what they mean for our lives.
The first time I heard “go set the world on fire” was on Get Away my freshman year. I went on Get Away as an overly excited first year, unable to get enough of this new environment with new people and new experiences. I wanted to experience and learn everything Xavier had to offer: meeting 30 new freshman outside of Brockman hall on a Friday night, learning the bones of the human skull from some of the best professors I have ever had, going to companion group meetings to pray in community, and staying up until 3 am with my roommates talking about everything you could (and don’t want to) imagine. I loved it all and there was no going up from there. My whole existence was on fire and my world had expanded from a small suburb of Cincinnati down I-75 and to our campus.
The enthusiasm I had my freshman year blossomed into a passion for being in relationship with and serving others. I wanted to do more than just say “hi” to the 30 people I had met outside of Brockman, I wanted to give back to the community that had welcomed me with open arms and a plethora of knowledge. My world had become Xavier and I wanted to give others the fire and love that Xavier had given me. I got more involved with the Center for Faith and Justice, was a Manresa leader, and took extra time to help classmates with homework. At the end of the year I became an intern in the Summer Service program, finally getting the chance to combine my major of occupational therapy with my love to serve others as an intern at United Cerebral Palsy.
Summer Service is still hard for me to explain in words that do the summer justice (pun intended). It is truly a special experience to spend 10 weeks in intentional community with people who love without judgment or reservation, while helping each other grapple with the hard questions of life. Not to mention facing the challenging realization that the world I loved (Xavier) and the way I had been living in it was not perfect. I was intrigued and frustrated by the fact that so much injustice exists in our world and that I was a part of that injustice, all while experiencing more love and a greater sense of home than I ever thought I would at college. What could I do about these issues? Did it even matter? The fire of my liveliness had turned to frustration and curiosity, and for the first time I yearned to see a world bigger than I knew in Cincinnati.
My junior year this frustration was coupled with a lot of self-doubt, pain and rejection. My world became very self-centered, focused on what I wanted and needed to get through the day. The fire of excitement and passion to serve and be in relationship with others had faded, and I just looked for enough light to guide me through the day. Luckily, I found that light in the love of others on our campus, even when I didn’t want to accept their love because I couldn’t love myself. Sometimes setting the world on fire looks like large, earthshaking tasks that make a huge impact to a large number. Yet other times setting the world on fire, seems as small as writing a note, listening to a friend’s irrational thoughts or sitting in Bellarmine with someone between classes. Small fires can have a lot of power, even if it is just on one person’s world.
Many things have happened since my junior year that have given me the confidence to love myself again and to love others without the fear of being hurt. Leading Summer Service, being a Brueggeman fellow and my relationship with God have all been instrumental in helping me find confidence in my ability to light my own fire. I have begun to live more independently towards the life that I want to lead and the world that I want to surround myself with (with the help of friends, family and mentors of course). I have expanded my world to career paths that don’t necessarily exist, invested in close friendships with people I never thought I would meet, and been vulnerable in conversations that I thought were too difficult to have. I have learned the value of loving and believing in yourself as a valuable co-creator of your own life — as God sees you. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t anywhere close to perfect. The imperfections stare at me with bold uppercase letters of “CAN YOU REALLY DO THIS? YOU AREN’T READY” as graduation and 7 weeks solo in England are quickly approaching. What will my undergrad years at Xavier mean when friends leave and I am at Xavier next year? How will my career, my faith, and my feelings about myself change as I spend 7 weeks in a completely new place with no one that I know?
I don’t have many answers, if any. But I do know this: Xavier has challenged me to live passionately, to be present and to be alive. To live as if my life is on fire. My time here has also taught me that each person’s world, no matter how large or how small matters. There are so many people to meet, so many things to experience. When one world seems to crash, another will be created. Expand your world, be a co-creator, and do it all with your heart on fire.
Rachel Snodgrass is graduating from the Occupational Therapy program and has tremendously impacted the CFJ during her time at XU. She would surly be missed, but thank goodness we don’t have to miss her because she’s in a 5 year program and will be joining the CFJ as a Graduate Intern!