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This week, we faced terrible weather in Atchison, Kansas. It got cold after a warm weekend, but that wasn’t the worst of it. Freezing rain had coated everything with inches of icy slush that melted a little and then froze into sheets of ice.
A friend from a warmer climate taunted me: “Sorry about your windchill. We dipped below 70 degrees yesterday, so that was rough. We offered it up for Lent.”
We have heard these kinds of taunts before — even from other schools. On behalf of all of those in colder climes, may I say three words? “Bring it on.”
I thought of seven reasons to embrace cold weather.
1: A little struggle makes you stronger; it reminds you that life is not about you or your comfort.
As Pope Benedict put it: “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” He should know. He’s from Marktl, Germany, which will get down to 9 degrees fahrenheit this Sunday.
2: The cold gathers us together into enclosed spaces with friends and family, where we form strong communities.
The average temperatures in Skopje, Albania, are like Atchison’s. That’s the place that made Mother Teresa into a woman who would form a band of missionary nuns to change the world.
3: Shoveling snow or clearing ice as you start your day builds the virtue of hard work.
That is what St. John Paul the Great did as a child in icy Wadowice, Poland. It made him who he was.
4: Having to shop ahead, think ahead, and get started early, teaches you planning and patience.
… and when you can go to the store at any time you want, all year round, you learn not to plan ahead.
5: You build confidence in God when you realize life isn’t always easy but it’s always good.
“The snow is like wool because of its whiteness,” wrote Pope John Paul II, “the frost with its delicate particles is like the dust of the desert, the hail is like morsels of bread thrown to the ground.”
6: Hard weather inspires people to help each other — shoveling, giving rides, planning and shopping — in ways people in comfortable climates don’t naturally discover.
It is all in the spirit of St. Bernard of Menthon, who helped travelers make it through the snow.
7: Last, but not least: Hard winters give you a joy at spring that is greater than almost any other natural joy.
The greatest poets of springtime come from places where it gets cold — not from places that are comfortable all year round. It takes a harsh winter to truly appreciate the beauty of nature.
And so, it is no coincidence that some of the greatest saints of our time come from cold places.
To be a saint, you have to leave your comfort zone. When you live where it gets cold, leaving your comfort zone becomes a habit.