Remembering Inspirational Grandfathers Everywhere

At the Fenwick All Souls’ Day Mass, a junior cross-country runner from Burr Ridge recalled how her late grandpa would utter ‘cheesy’ quotations and loosen hard-to-open pickle jars.

By Student Preacher Natalie Poleszak ’23 (Burr Ridge, IL)

Today, we celebrate All Souls’ Day. Every single year, Catholics gather on November 2nd, commemorating the dead. But why? For Catholics, this day gives us the opportunity to pray for all who have passed away. We pray for our departed brothers and sisters, our loved ones, and our friends. And we also pray for all those still in purgatory, that they may be cleansed of their sins to be finally carried into heaven to rest with God. Personally, I use this day to remember one of the people that I loved the most, my grandfather.

No matter how many people you are surrounded by, I think the most interesting thing is that we can still feel so alone. That’s why it’s so important to know that you will always have a community to fall back on. Even though we may not depend on them for our every need, just knowing that you have someone there to listen, help or even just silently pray for you is a big help. Your community can be your parents, your siblings, your friends, your classmates, even your Starbucks barista … anyone you trust really. But sometimes, all we need is that one person who will help us through the thick and thin. For me, that was my grandpa. Whenever any minor inconveniences would happen in my life, I would go to him. Whether I needed someone to open a jar of pickles, or someone to referee the fighting between my sister and me, grandpa was always there. While he did not always know how to fix the problem, he was always present there for me and willing to listen. I often wished he could fix all my problems as easily as he could open a jar of pickles. Instead, often he simply gave me advice through a cheesy inspirational quote. When I think about his impact today, all those cheesy quotes may have actually helped — that he not only gave me the solution, but made me work for the answer. Through looking back at his words, everything that has happened to me has been a lesson, even if I was blinded by that lesson in the moment. But, sometimes, learning from our experience isn’t always easy. Sometimes, we need to experience deep personal and spiritual reflection before we get the answers we are searching for.

My relationship with God has not always been perfect. To be quite honest, after my grandfather died, I did not have much faith in God. I was angry and sad, struggling to comprehend my own emotions. Not knowing who to turn to or what to do, I instinctively decided to just sit and pray. One day, I decided to bike to church, and then sat in front of the altar. I began to talk to God, telling him my thoughts on and on until about two hours passed. I wish that I could tell you that that specific moment turned me into a new, enlightened person, but it didn’t feel like that at all. I did feel somewhat relieved, but it didn’t change the ever-present fact that my grandpa was gone. The real impact was when I went to Sunday Mass the next day. At Mass, no one sat in the seat I had sat in the day before. Every seat around it was filled with people … and yet, that one singular seat was completely open. No, no one was saving a spot. It wasn’t due to social distancing. Nor was it even a seat for someone’s coat or purse. That seat was just completely empty, almost as if it was beckoning for me. 

At that moment, I realized that God heard my prayers. As weird as it looked, I truly believe that I received a message from God. I came to understand that God would leave that seat open for me whenever I wanted to come in and bask in his grace. God would always save me a spot as his table, like he saved a spot for my grandpa in the kingdom of heaven. 

Later it turned out that the seat was empty because a kid spilled applesauce on it before Mass, but a part of me still believes it was God’s own humorous way of showing his presence, love and care for me, just like my grandpa had.

The Commemoration of All Souls gives us a day to remember all those who have died. It also provides us an annual opportunity to reflect on how they have and still impact our lives. As much as we wish we could, we cannot bring our loved ones back to life, so instead we are gathered here today to do three things:  

Firstly, we are here today to honor them. We honor their words, their beliefs and, most especially, the love they gave us. 

Secondly, we pray for their eternal repose. We pray that through God’s great mercy, they might come to spend eternity with Him, in his kingdom.  

Lastly, in recalling the example of our departed loved ones, we are challenged to take the love we received from them and pass it on to others, through our own words and actions. May we recall those things that had a greatest impact upon us and do those same things for others.

As I take leave of you today, let me make it known:
If you ever need someone to support you or loosen the lid of a jar of pickles …
I am your girl!

Student Preacher for Ash Wednesday

Fenwick Preaching Team member and the Class of ’20 president reflected on the Lenten Season at Mass on February 26.

By Patrick Feldmeier ’20

Caddie and football player Patrick Feldmeier is one of four Chick Evans Scholarship recipients from Fenwick (to date) this school year.

40 days. 40 nights. Students and faculty, now is the opportunity to move forward as followers of Christ. Lent is the time to evaluate our connection to God, and make an honest effort to strengthen our faith. Through the trials and tribulations of the following 40 days, let us ask God for trust, for trust will empower us through all of life’s challenges.

At the end of His 40 days in the desert, the devil tested Jesus like never before with short term pleasures and materialistic possessions. Yet, Jesus stayed resilient, and refused to give in to the Devil’s temptations. Jesus trusted that God’s love would triumph any benefit received from giving into the Devil, and God prevailed. This trust, this faith that God is the answer in our lives, will guide us through these next 40 days. We are constantly surrounded by unfulfilling passions that make us happy for a short period of time, then leave us drained shortly after. The Devil works through these passions, but our heart yearns for more. A strong faith in God throughout Lent will orient ourselves to strive for fulfilling pleasures, which will bring us the long-lasting happiness we all desire. Everything begins with a trust in God, and the confidence that He knows what is best for us. Trust in God’s plan, the lessons he teaches, and the love he gives us every day; and rest assured you will enter Easter Sunday a changed person.

This Lent, don’t just give something up, like pop, candy, fighting with your siblings, whatever. Lent is about giving more to God, who calls on us to make a greater effort to pray more, attend mass more often, and embody a Catholic conscience in our daily lives.

We don’t know how our lives will be in 40 days. Life may be better, worse, or a complete transformation because of certain situations. Jesus conquered death merely days after his journey because He believed in the power of God. As Christians, if we can commit to strengthening our relationship with God in the next 40 days, we will see ourselves change right before our eyes. Jesus’ journey in the desert prepared him for his ministry, death and resurrection. I will leave all of you with one simple question. What are you preparing for in the next 40 days?

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Faith, Logic and St. Thomas Aquinas: the Great Dominican

“To say we have faith does not mean we automatically understand everything. It means we have the confidence to know God will help us understand.”

By Caroline Darrow ’21

Hello, my name is Caroline Darrow. Usually, I am the girl in the white gown sitting in the tiny chair next to Father, so you may not recognize me right now. But don’t worry I’ll be back there soon.

As I was trying to write this reflection for the Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, I wrote three different versions, but all of them felt like I was leading a kumbaya circle. So, I did the typical Fenwick procrastination, I did other homework instead.  Nevertheless, as I attempted to complete my pre calc homework while at the same time contemplating Aquinas, I realized it is very hard to think about faith and logic in the same instance. However, Aquinas’ own teachings can help with this conundrum.

“Logic can clarify faith, while faith can prevent mistakes of logic.”

Caroline Darrow (of Clarendon Hills/Notre Dame School)

One of Aquinas’ most influential teachings was his study of the relationship between faith and reason. Throughout time, there has been a struggle as how to combine knowledge gained from revelation with knowledge gained from the observation of the natural world around us. Aquinas viewed both of these as compatible with each other as they both had been created by God. Logic can clarify faith, while faith can prevent mistakes of logic. In other words, using our logic we are able to reason through and clarify teachings of faith in order to fully comprehend what God is trying to tell us.  Faith keeps our morals in check, while at the same time teaching us things we cannot observe through our senses, as we observe a society in which humans are susceptible to other worldly perspectives.

In addition to being a Preaching Team member, Ms. Darrow (far right) serves as an acolyte at Fenwick masses.

What does it truly mean to seek God in faith and reason? Each day, we pray before classes in which we never speak about God. You most likely won’t contemplate Catholic teachings while solving logarithms, but you will have times when you question aspects of your faith because to say we have faith does not mean we automatically understand everything, it means we have the confidence to know God will help us understand. To aid in understanding, we must combine both our faith and logic to come to the best conclusion. God has instilled faith and logic in our lives, and it is our job to find a way to follow Aquinas, embracing both ways to gain knowledge in order to follow the path God has sent us on.

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Friars’ Student Preacher for October

A Fenwick junior urges her classmates to learn from sisters Martha and Mary in the Bible — and be more diligent with their prayer lives.

By Grace McGann ’21

Grace McGann, a junior, commutes to Fenwick from Western Springs, Illinois.

In today’s Gospel, we learn about two sisters named Martha and Mary. When welcoming Jesus into their home, Martha scrambles to clean and organize the house while Mary simply sits at Jesus’ feet to listen to his wisdom and prayer. Eventually, fed up and exhausted, Martha complains to Jesus about the actions of her sister. Jesus simply explains to Martha that her own anxieties and worries have gotten the best of her, and that Mary has made the better decision by choosing to pray alongside Jesus.

It’s easy, especially as Fenwick students, to see ourselves in Martha’s position. From what seems to be endless hours of homework, maintaining grades and also maintaining meaningful relationships, high school does come with a lot of things to be worried about. So many of us have gotten to a point where it feels like these worries consume us. It’s at moments like these where we must remember the Gospel. Jesus told Martha that she was too focused on worrisome things and that she should focus more on the thing that truly matters: prayer. We are all individuals with very busy schedules, but as Jesus said to Martha, we cannot let our worries take priority over our faith. In the long run, your grade in geometry is not going to have a significant impact on your life. Your faith, however, can set your soul on fire for the rest of your life, and that all starts with our prayer habits.

Yes, we do pray before every class and some of us might pray before every meal. But it is easy to find ourselves stuck in the rabbit hole where we are just going through the motions. We stand up, say a “Hail Mary” or even an “Our Father” and sit down. But how often do you think about what you just did? An easy step to take to improve your prayer habits is being aware of what you are saying. We pray before class, for example, because we are asking God to help us with our struggles, not to just focus on our struggles and completely and ignore Him in the process. There are thousands of ways to engage in meaningful prayer. For me, its praying before I go to bed.

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