This post was originally published on the McGill Christians Blog.
By Josh Abrego
I graduated from McGill University with my Master’s degree in Voice Performance from the Schulich School of Music in the summer of 2012. During my time at McGill I had the incredible blessing of living at the Newman Centre for 3 years. It was during this wonderful period when I learned more about my faith and values than at any other time before. I met inspiring Catholics, generous and intelligent colleagues and some of the best friends I have ever made. As a young adult in university, the Catholic community I was surrounded by was paramount in molding the relationship I have with God as well as the desire for self-improvement and growth. I am not perfect by any means, but I know that I will always strive to steer my life in the direction of the Church, Jesus and God.
I have an unorthodox career; I am an opera singer. This career entails years of study which, in all honesty, never end. We are very much like professional athletes in that our lives are very self-focused. We are constantly taking care of our bodies, learning how to handle ourselves better and fortifying our mental acuity and focus. Any professional athlete will tell you that this can lead to a very self-absorbed lifestyle and unfortunately can create conceit, selfishness and an unhealthy pride. This is one of the reasons why it’s essential to have God in the center of your life. Life is hard no matter what your profession is; life is especially hard if you have a career that requires travelling and not seeing family and loved ones. With God at the center of your life, your path, decisions and values are made clear. With God at the center of your life, you realize that your career must be in service to Him and in service to your family. Having a relationship with God gives us the immense gift of having humility with ambition. To elaborate, with God we can be humble enough to realize the gifts and privileges He has bestowed on us, yet we also have the drive to use them to their fullest extent and nourish them. This has always brought me peace when I was worried that my choice to be a stage performer in a supposedly snobby and ‘elitist’ genre was wrong or misguided. With the relationship I started to nourish during my time at McGill, I see that I can always keep God as the center of my life regardless of my career path.
We live in a world where so much of our imposed worth is judged by material wealth and status. Having our life built on a foundation based on a relationship with God frees us from the shackles of a consumerist mentality; our culture dictates that we’re expected to make money so we can spend money and buy things we’re told we need. With God, we’re free to make choices that are considered radical to our global culture. If we want to choose a life where we give away all our money and material possessions and devote ourselves to a simple life serving others, we are welcomed with complete joy and love by God. This does not mean that if we choose to work with the established system, make money and buy a nice home to live in then we are automatically doing something wrong. It means we can still live in a traditional manner and yet go against the norm by making the drive and focus of our lives to become closer to God rather than to attain material wealth.
Being involved in a community of Christians whom are the same age as oneself is very nourishing to our relationship with God. We can learn how to truly love God and ourselves. We show God the greatest love by helping those in need; the more we give to those with less, the closer we are with God. A young Christian community gives us opportunities to carry out these activities as well as resources to learn more about our faith, values and relationship with God. Without the community I had at the Newman Centre, I would not be anywhere near as happy or at peace with God as I am now. There’s still room for improvement however, so Christian community is so important even beyond life at university.