Hundreds of students packed Hillside last Tuesday for this year’s second Agape Latte event, and the first since the wildly popular Agape Latte Beanpot. The event opened with a performance from Matt Michienzie, MCAS ’17, an independent performer and a member of the Boston College Acoustics. CSOM professor Thomas Wesner followed up the performance as the featured speaker of the night.
Michienzie was fantastic throughout his performance; the relative simplicity of singing over an acoustic guitar placed the focus solely on his voice, and he was able to play a wide variety of songs spanning many genres. His covers of “Superstition” and “Pride and Joy” were wonderful and welcome surprises to an audience expecting stereotypical, soft acoustic ballads.
Professor Wesner’s talk was advertised as his spin on the “life is like a box of chocolates” saying from Forest Gump. He focused on the surprises throughout his life—some good and some bad—and how they have shaped him and made him closer to God.
“Maybe the surprises aren’t always the ones we want,” Wesner reflected, “but maybe what we do with them is what’ll help form us and shape us.”
As Professor Wesner recounted, he certainly had his share of harder surprises. His parents separated during an era when divorce was rare, which left him “broken, angry and confused.” Perhaps the hardest surprise he faced was when his child was falsely diagnosed with Down syndrome; he and his wife were able to get a second opinion which proved the initial diagnosis false, but the surprise led him to reflect on those less fortunate.
“Because we were part of the power structure, we could go and get a second opinion," Wesner said. "It gave us pause to think about the people who aren’t so privileged.”
Despite adversity, Professor Wesner still has experienced plenty of positive surprises in his lifetime. He met his eventual wife in Eagle’s Nest, where he exclaimed to one of his friends that he would marry her after seeing her that first time. His decision to enroll in law school was the result of him reading and predicting the outcomes of a law book that his sister gave him.
Perhaps his most profound surprise was when he crossed paths with a Jesuit after his admissions interview (back when they still did interviews) at BC. He asked the priest whether prayer still mattered after he had completed working on his application. The unnamed Jesuit gave him advice that he still remembers to this day.
“Work as if the outcome is up to you, and pray and trust as if the outcome is up to God.”
According to Professor Wesner, God likes to surprise us and to have us surprise Him. Although not all of these unexpected moments are positive, they each carry the power to bring us closer to God and to our true selves.
At the conclusion of his talk, Professor Wesner—who always starts class by saying “good morning” even when it’s the afternoon—left the audience with a question.
“Fellow travelers,” Wesner addressed his crowd, “what are you after? Why are you here tonight? Why are you at BC? Why are you here on earth?”
Maybe the surprises in our lives can help us find out.