By Chelsea Magyar
Chelsea Magyar is a senior at the University of Colorado Boulder studying communications and dance. She is involved with the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church ministry as a co-chair for pro-life events, FOCUS as a Bible study participant and a seasonal intern at the Denver Support Center, and multiple dance organizations.
On the bus ride home from SEEK, I started to tell my friend a story, and he said, “All your stories are about anxiety.” Unfortunately he was right, because lately, a lot of my stories have been about my battle with anxiety. In a way, this one is too, but there is something more. That is what SEEK was about: encountering something more.
The first night of the conference, I came back to my hotel room and cracked open my Bible. I read about when the Holy Spirit brought Jesus into the desert for a rather unsavory encounter with the devil. I could not stop thinking, “God, why would you bring Jesus into the desert with Satan? God, why have you brought me into the desert with Satan?” I knew God was good and that he was always present and even that he could use suffering for beauty; however, my cross of anxiety was beginning to feel more like a visit from Satan in the desert than something God could use to bless me.
It started over Labor Day weekend when I had a panic attack at Mass. Ever since then, my anxiety has been difficult to manage, and I often become anxious and afraid when I am at Mass. It makes me feel ashamed, embarrassed, and exhausted. That first night at SEEK, I wondered why God would let me struggle the way I did this last semester. He answered me.
“Chelsea, do you know how to quiet your mind?” my hotel mate asked uneasily. I had been working on that all semester, so I shared some tips and did my best to comfort her. I saw myself in her and realized that my anxiety created a capacity for compassion that would not have been there otherwise. We prayed together, and I think we both began to heal. It reminded me of something a priest told me in spiritual direction: God lets us have crosses because they bring us closer to him and because they enable us to love our sisters and brothers in a special way. That is why God led me to the desert: So that I could encounter something more in my neighbor and in him.
In his talk at SEEK, “Seeing Christ in the Poor,” Dr. Jonathan Reyes spoke about the meaning of the Spanish word for encounter, encuentro. He described this term as an intimate soul speaking to soul moment, a sharing of humanity, an “I see you” moment, an “I’m listening to you” moment. My hotel mate and I shared an encuentro, and after that I experienced several more encuentros during SEEK: talking with the person in line behind me in the 30-minute line for the bathroom about art and St. John Paul II’s “Letter to Artists”; laughing when a Christ in the City missionary offered me a prayer card with his foot; asking a friend I made on the bus to pray over me when I felt anxious; hearing about what other CU students were experiencing at SEEK; bumping into friends and co-workers from FOCUS and giving them hugs.
God let me encounter him in my neighbor, but he also drew me into encounters with himself. Every Mass, every time I visited the chapel, and during the powerful adoration with 17,000 other people, Jesus seemed to whisper to my heart, “I see you. I know you. I love you. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.”
The talks at SEEK were amazing. adoration with 17,000 people was amazing. Mass with a legion of priests was amazing. But maybe what was more amazing were the little encounters that gave me hope in the desert.
The talks are done (even though they are online, and I highly recommend checking them out). There is no more Adoration with 17,000 people. There is no more Mass with hundreds of priests. But every day is an opportunity to encounter one another and our Lord and share an encuentro.
I wish I could say that SEEK cured me of my anxiety and that I am now fearless. The truth is that I still struggle, and my time in the desert may not be quite over yet. The difference is that there is hope, and I see something more than the suffering. I realize that while Satan may be in the desert, Jesus is here too. The desert enables me to embrace him and to embrace my brothers and sisters in their deserts. SEEK opened my heart to hearing God’s words, “See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the wilderness I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers” (Isaiah 43:19).
I am excited to see this something new and this something more continue in my life and in the lives of the 17,000 who also encountered something more at SEEK. In us all, God can do something new and transform a world plagued by darkness into a place with encounter and light.