Ash Wednesday and spring break.
At first blush, it seems like a terribly odd convergence today. The liturgical season of Lent and the annual rite of spring where college kids flock to the Florida beaches (including those thirty-five minutes from our campus!) seem to go together about as well as tanning oil and holy water. Change and repentance with recreation and revelry? You are “dust and unto dust you shall return” one minute and “eternally young” the next?
That is what I find so wonderful at Ave Maria University – our students are encouraged to have a unity in their lives and within themselves, rather than to have a compartmentalized life and a compartmentalized faith. We believe that following God and having fun blissfully co-exist, and that you can be normal and faithful.
In the next day or two, all across America and here at Ave Maria the stampede toward spring break begins, and I have no idea where all of our students will be going and what they will be doing.
But I do know about the plans of dozens of them.
I know of a big group that is going to go with two fellow students who are siblings and stay in their family’s home in Haiti and do relief work and spread joy in Port au Prince. Seven AMU students are going to Destin, Florida for a Habitat for Humanity build. Mother Teresa Project Direct Grace Cheffers and my wife, Mary, will be leading a group of eight students on a trip to work in the Mexico City orphanage of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s order of nuns. And over the weekend while I was watching our tennis team compete, I heard of the plans of two students who are joining a group of spring breakers from other campuses on a mission trip to Jamaica.
My point is simply that while the media will showcase the binge drinking and partying that has been a rite of spring break, there will be many students who will demonstrate that you can have a blast without running wild in self-destructive behavior – while doing a lot of good for a lot of people!
Last night at Ave Maria 47 students signed up to become “Mother Teresa Scholars” and participate in the Mother Teresa Project at AMU (go to motherteresaproject.org to learn more). They are some of the most joyful, cheerful followers of Christ I know.
Ashes on the forehead, and the call to conversion inherent in Lent, do not mean that we are consigned to a solemn, sad Christianity. If you don’t believe me, just ask these budding Mother Teresa Scholars and other Ave students running wild at spring break!