Whatever Did I Do?
"What did I ever do to deserve this?" I kept asking as I stood looking out over the muddy Monongahela River from my dormitory window. It was September, 1964 and I had just arrived at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh to begin my freshman year. The resident assistant told me how lucky I was to have a room "with a view." "Some view!", I grumbled inwardly. I was convinced I had made a huge mistake by coming to Duquesne. It certainly wasn't Plan A.
You see, I had set my heart on going to Boston College after a visit to its beautiful campus. Although I was accepted at BC, I received no financial aid. A full tuition scholarship from Duquesne lured me there instead. After my choice was made, I won a larger scholarship which could have been used at any school, including Boston. However, I decided to hold fast to my choice of Duquesne, even though I had never seen the campus.
Words cannot describe my dismay when I first laid eyes on Duquesne University that September. It was thoroughly unimpressive compared to Boston College. Many departments were housed in old homes along the Bluff of the river. Other homes were boarded up and vacant. A few poor families still remained in the dying neighborhood. I found the surroundings absolutely depressing. Victory Gardens in the middle of the campus was made to look like a park in the Duquesne catalog; in actuality it was a small patch of grass. "I could be at beautiful Boston College or at any school in the country," I groaned, "and instead I chose this awful place."
That first night on campus my parents took me out to dinner.
My disappointment with Duquesne was so intense I broke down crying. Weakened by my tears, my father was too upset to even finish his meal. "Drive home with us, honey," Daddy said. "You can transfer to Boston College next semester."
"No," I protested, playing the martyr, "I'll stick it out here for a semester." So, reluctantly, they left me in Pittsburgh.
Within just a few weeks, as I got to know the students and faculty at Duquesne, I really grew to love the school and decided to make it my home. That decision profoundly affected the course of my entire life. Although I didn't realize it at the time, it was God's providence that led me to Duquesne. He had plans for me there I would never have dreamed nor imagined possible.
In God's inscrutable wisdom, He chose to visit Duquesne University in February, 1967 when a group of us made a weekend retreat on the theme of the Holy Spirit. Until that time, my prayer followed these general lines: "Lord, bless my plans, do my will, according to my timetable. Amen."
During that retreat I realized my deep need for conversion. On Saturday night I knelt in the chapel and made an unconditional surrender to God. I prayed that I might do the Father's will, learn to follow Jesus and be filled with His love. In answer to my simple prayer of faith, God baptized me in His Holy Spirit. As I fell prostrate before the Blessed Sacrament I felt inundated with the incredibly merciful, totally unmerited love of God. Within a short time I was joined by the other students in the chapel where we experienced a sovereign outpouring of the Spirit of the living God. From that moment on, my life has never been the same.
That retreat, now known as the "Duquesne Weekend," was much more than a moving personal experience. It marked the beginning of the worldwide outpouring of God's Spirit we call the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. The spark that was ignited at Duquesne has become a fire that is inflaming the hearts of millions of people across the face of the earth! God visited Duquesne. It was His choice. What a privilege to be there when He arrived!
Shortly after my conversion, I was walking along the Bluff, looking out over the muddy Monongahela River once again. It was the same view I saw on my first day on campus, but I was a different person. Gratitude welled up within my heart for the grace of experiencing His visitation. "What did I ever do to deserve this, Jesus?" I asked in prayer, filled with amazement and awe. Of course, I had done nothing to deserve it. No one could ever merit God's gift of the Holy Spirit. But, in His mercy, the Lord guided me to a place where I could encounter His love. Choosing Duquesne was not a huge mistake after all. In fact, it was one of the greatest graces of my entire life!
In the summer of 1988 I returned to Duquesne for the first time since my graduation in 1968 . . . a kind of 20 year reunion. A sense of awe came over me as I considered how the Holy Spirit has moved since the Duquesne weekend. Walking across the small campus, I marveled anew at what a humble place Duquesne really is.
God didn't choose the most impressive, prestigious or influential school for His first stop in this modern day outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Instead, He visited an ordinary group of people at an ordinary campus in the Pittsburgh hills. God's wisdom and His way always defy human understanding. Perhaps the Duquesne story serves as a reminder that we can never merit His gifts. Rather, it is the Father's good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. Of ourselves we deserve nothing, in Jesus we receive everything! Praise God for His grace and mercy!
from More of God— Inspirational Selections from the Notebook Column by Patti Gallagher Mansfield p.96-99