Great Wonder and Profound Hope: A reflection on solidarity

community members hold candles for vigil in support of migrants and refugees at the southern border
A candlelight vigil was a way of showing solidarity with those on the margins.

September 07, 2019
Kaitlyn Wiens, Office of Mission and Ministry

Last Wednesday night students from Gonzaga University alongside with faculty, staff, and members of the Spokane community gathered to stand in solidarity with those who have been impacted by the crisis at our nation’s border. This was not a flashy event in the slightest; there was no stage, no video recordings, no formalities, or even pauses for applause after one spoke. Instead hidden in the darkness of the evening, pressed into a corner of our law school’s outer lawn stood people doing nothing else but listening. These people did not bring signs or chants or agendas, but simply stood - bringing with them something with an immensely great value that is often overlooked: their presence, and their hearts.

My very wonder was inspired by nothing else but the power of presence and my hope was spurred by nothing other than the sacred nature of the heart.

As I stood in the center of this crowd and glanced at the faces around me lit up in the softness of the candlelight, I was filled with both great wonder and profound hope. As I further reflected upon this experience, I found that these contributions of presence and heart, along with my resulting emotions were unmistakably intertwined. Often times the power of a focused presence and the simplicity of truth held in our hearts can be overlooked in our rush to take action. But in this case, my very wonder was inspired by nothing else but the power of presence and my hope was spurred by nothing other than the sacred nature of the heart. I have found that in being present in a space where untold stories are shared, we gain the power to inform the world not only that these stories are worth sharing, but that the voices that tell them need to be heard. Likewise in opening our hearts to the ideas and emotions of another and allowing our hearts to break alongside our brother or sister, we spark hope for a more loving and empathetic tomorrow. 


I believe that the impact of this gathering was not found in the specific actions carried out, but was found in the shaping of the most secret and sacred place: the heart. As a Jesuit, Catholic, and humanistic university, it is crucial that Gonzaga take action lest its mission statement become mere written words, but it is just as vital to ensure that the mission of Gonzaga takes root first in the heart of its community. Just as the scripture in 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” If the Lord begins in the heart, I believe that so must we. Let us raise our voices and put love into action, but let us also gather in the silent and dark places, listening and allowing our hearts to be changed and shaped in the presence of our brothers and sisters and in the eyes of our God.