Ever The Addict – Takes 2 and 3

I like to think I’m not a total cynic, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t prone to viewing the world in such negative terms quite often.  Well, here I am, on two sides of a gap in worldview at once.

See, when I started this post, it was just kind a flood of all these thoughts I’d been having for a while.  Next thing I know, I’m going to a talk from a consecrated woman, and things start to get answered; some of the anger I experienced in the first half of this post, is now lessened, and now I know I’m being heard.  I’ll get to that though.  Just a warning, this’ll be an extra, extra long post in light of the fact that a lot has happened recently to cause this surge.  Plus, she suggested writing about the high and low points of life, so here’s mine.  Maybe I’ll include a TL;DR note.  Maybe.

~1: Storm~

Raw writing has never been my strength.  There’s a certain outpouring of unchecked passion thrust into it that blurs the meaning and detracts from the piece as a whole.  I’ve learned that with papers, I’ve learned that with speeches, I’ve learned that with people.  Or perhaps I haven’t.

You might call me a fool, and you’d be right of course, I never really learn.  I have this… infuriating habit of making resolutions to change things, and then… well, there it goes.  I said as much regarding coffee in the last post, but there’s always a deeper issue.  Perhaps I’m just going with the flow, not quite present.  I think that perhaps I am too stuck in my ways for a number of reasons.  An unfortunate repetition and lack of attentiveness, my environment, and my own mental blocks.

I love writing, watching my thoughts materialize on the page, the feeling of seeing me outside myself.  Perhaps that’s egotistical of me, I’m not sure.  It’s said that when we love others, we’re able to recognize that they are another “me”.  As we desire happiness, peace, safety, and security for ourselves, loving them requires wanting the best for them as well.  Why am I talking about love in a post about being addicted?  They stand opposed.  Love is free where addiction binds.  The latter warps something intrinsic, and makes the visible light fade.

My mind isn’t what it was when I was younger.  I felt like I was sharper then, more quick witted, ready with a punchline, a thought of considerable depth, or a brandished blade, all at the drop of a hat.  My prayer felt more sincere, and the work in my life became more apparent.  Now, that seems to be more concerned with staleness than anything, but I suppose it is an addiction.

I hate feeling, yet I also despise the idea of being apathetic.  I love to experience new things, but I hate the journey.  I am a contradiction in many terms, yet have some high ideals that I am sure.

Who am I?  I am the addict.  “Good men don’t need rules; today is not the day to find out why I have so many.”  Sometimes I wonder whether I truly believe that, but I suppose it makes sense.

Good men don’t need rules per say because they have already internalized them.  The words are as simple affirmations to what they already live.  I don’t live by the rules that free me.  Another form of contradiction, it seems, but then Eagle Eye knowledge jumps to the fore, to aid me in time of struggle.  As the river needs the banks to avoid stagnancy, so rules become the guiding force.  Then as they direct the flow, as they are internalized, true power rises forth, spilling toward their destination, an unstoppable tide.

Have I reached stagnancy, in my addiction to “feeling good”?  Yes, I think so, unfortunately.  A part of me gets frustrated when I don’t feel anything in church.  I feel a surge of powerlessness when I walk out of that confessional, and I don’t feel a “something” in my soul.  In the past, I used to exit feeling somehow lighter than when I walked in.  Now… well… I just am.

I suppose that quote is rather truer than I’d like: “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”  How relevant, how unbelievably discouraging to hear.  Because I can’t take myself lightly.  But I crave it terribly, that feeling.  Not emotional, I don’t think.  Just a clarity.  A sharpened sense, where I am aware that I am fully attuned upon receiving Communion.

And yet I know the reasons.  I’ve heard it before, probably said it once, and I’ll say it again.  God doesn’t want us to be addicted to Him, or addicted to the feelings He grants us.  That is not freedom, and no matter how much I might want to just have it easy and just sink into that feeling, that thing that makes it easy to just drop into that plane of reality normally unseen, I can’t.

My heart of hearts knows that if I can’t choose it freely, then I never actually wanted it to begin with.  Addiction is born of curiosity, not of any desire to possess the thing that one eventually becomes addicted to.  I know what addiction is, because three years ago, I was trapped in another kind, just as powerful, if not more.  From that, I know that freeing oneself from addiction is beyond me, myself, and I.  The lone wolf cannot hunt and survive on its own.

Nor can it create itself to aid.  There I go, sounding rather like I have a multiple personality disorder all over again.  I even had names for each of them, you know.  There was a real warrior type, taking my brightest aspects, then there was the assassin, everything dark and hated about me, stuck in one form.  I started a book.  It didn’t end well.
Those are my ghosts, the fantasy that I reject today, but I see where my younger self was coming from.  Coping with the tug of things is difficult, and that was my response then.  Now, it’s me.  I’m not going to invent more of me to fight my problems.  It doesn’t work.

So now you see where the dark danger comes into play, don’t you?  You get addicted to the idea of isolation, keen to hide yourself and everything that you are from what you see as prying eyes.  You bury yourself deep, and all the while, this stagnancy of spirit, this addiction to feeling plays against you.  I don’t like needing people.  Thing is, I’m still young, and I appear to have a foolhardy heart still.

You see where I am, I’m sure.  I seek escape in a dangerous way, tied to “feeling better”.  My transformation becomes external, rather than internal.  The surface you see changes to suit the newness of it all, but within, there lies a barely contained… something.

I feel it sometimes, boiling to the surface, blood pumping fast, eyes becoming steely, heart like it’s about to burst, a pain in the sides of my head, my breathing barely controlled.
It never gets far, as I slow down everything about me, shutting my eyes, sealing it as one does a vault, only it’s my mind.  A palace of madness.  And I have fears that one day it will be the thing that hurts not only me, but someone close to me.  A tenuous hold in the future shattered like glass.  A million pieces that cut.

Father Nathan was right.  I have been filled by the world, and I need another emptying.  I need Eagle Eye, or something just as life-changing.  Something more than just a week.  I need to change, radically.  I have to go, outside the bounds.  My land isn’t doing me any favors.  Nostalgia has a habit of killing things, and this isn’t my home anymore.

Maybe I’ve something gone undiagnosed, I don’t know.  Food related issues, possibly?  I know a favorite book character of mine struggled with that herself, but she at least had an innocent head on her shoulders.  Anger issues?  It would explain a lot.  Depression issues?  Maybe.  Also would explain.

I’m looking for a cure, which is problematic.  I don’t need some bloody doctor, I need other guidance.  I haven’t had the heart or the time to take on a spiritual director, but I feel as if that’s going to be the turning point.  Yet I second guess myself.  What if I don’t find one, and I’m just left with the same nagging sense of frustration?

I’m an agitated fellow, a real butterfly in the mind.  It’s leaping and flying all over the place, unable to stick to one solid path.  Still stuck in those dreams of my own concoction, torturing myself with the “what if I fail?” scenarios, or the “what if I can’t reach that?”, or better yet, “what if I can’t escape?”

A longing to leave.

Yet I can’t.  I have to sort things out here, before I go.  Just because one runs from something doesn’t mean they can avoid carrying it forward into everything that they do next.  And in my discernment of priesthood, I can’t be like this.  I cannot be a priest controlled by emotion.  Heck, I can’t be a father, I can’t be a good anything if I don’t get a handle on this.

 

~Nearing The Wall~

Raw.  Unchecked.  Me.  If you got through that, I applaud you.  Sort of.  Now you see where I stand.  Of course, maybe it’s good this way.  I make no pretense about what sort of person I am.  I might not say everything about me, but that’s probably deeper than I’d normally care to go.  Welcome to my world.  Still, I promised another part to this, didn’t I?

 

~2: The Eye~

When I talk about my own goodness, it’s usually not in relation to actually being good as a whole, it’s about my being good at doing… things.  I believe it’s alright to doubt that, doubt in my abilities.

My danger comes from this perfectionism that I’ve talked about before.  See, I place a lot of value on my capabilities.  Drawing a sketch “correctly”; being able to lift weights with the proper form, and okay, some decent amount of burden to them; being able to do the moves in any dance correctly; being able to put the right words in papers, etc.   I despise anything that I perceive as a weakness in those areas, and I find that when I “fail” per say, in those small areas, I begin to doubt myself on a much larger scale.

It’s like… like messing up a math problem.  You write out the numbers, plugging them into an equation, and miss one (this is something I actually did on a test), which inevitably throws the entire rest of it out of whack.  Worse still is if it’s one of the first calculations you make.  Thing is, life isn’t a math problem.  No amount of calculation and planning on my part is going to help the unplottable, and I’m certainly not going to be able to “plan out” perfection.

For a long time now, I’ve been plagued with this doubt that I’m a good man – goodness being in its truest sense.  It’s just the way it is, and I expect a way that the devil is going to attack me for a long time.  Just because I write something in a mad fit of passion doesn’t mean that thought just came to me then.  It might have been lurking in the shadows for some time.  Voices in my head, nagging at me.  I don’t get a moment’s silence.

Ms. Jackie, the speaker,  said something rather vital about those.  Satan has the title, “The Accuser”, which makes perfect sense, considering one of the voices in my head is constantly accusing me of my faults.  When I say accusing me, it’s constantly reminding me of how I’ve failed, even over things I thought long past.  Not only that, but the voice likes to point out how I can’t rise above such depths.

That’s key.  “Guilt can be a good thing.  The soul’s call to action.”  However, guilt that is constantly berating and putting us down is not from God.  God’s voice recognizes the fault, but it also encourages us to move forward, to rise.  How do we combat the other?  We literally send it away.  “Go to Hell where you belong.”  Just writing out those words already has my blood pumping, it’s kind of funny.
Remember that difference:  God lifts us up, like a hand clasp between brothers, pulling us to our feet.  The devil sees our failure, and stands over us, telling us we’ll never make it back to the surface.

I could go on to talk about the main personas the devil takes on, but I think there’s one in particular that was important for me to know.

“The secretive one”, in the context of a relationship.  Let’s say you had a friend who was dating someone who didn’t want anyone to know that there was a relationship present: Not family, not friends, no one.  That would be quite fishy wouldn’t it?  I hope you’d tell them to get out of that.  It’s quite unhealthy and dangerous.

Still, same thing here in essentials.  You’re faced with a situation, attached, in the thick of it, and here comes the voice.  It’s telling you that you don’t need anyone, trusting others is a weakness, and you need to hide what’s happening.

It’s a lie.  A lie that I myself keep believing.  Maybe I’m just stubborn, but I recognize and ignore that inner plea for help too often.  I like to shut myself in, because I tell myself I’ve gotten tired.  Tired of the struggle.  Tired of trusting, and feeling like I’ve been let down too many times.  I like to say that it’s just a weakness, needing others.  But we do, however much I might despise it at times, we do.  I won’t make it far otherwise.  I suppose it all comes under that desire to know and be known, doesn’t it?

And while there’s pain, I suppose it makes the best parts of relationships really stand out, doesn’t it?  I wish I could accept the pain for what it is, and use it to act, like I do sometimes with anger.  I channel it, I push myself further than I thought I could, I use it to better myself.  Pain on the psychological and emotional level is another battle entirely, and I’m not quite sure how to combat it yet.

So on the subject of whether I’m a good man or not, the question that keeps filtering through everything I think and write, can I just say that I don’t know?
Well, then that would be a lie, I suppose.  Listen very carefully to this next part, as it pertains not just to me, but you as well:  God made us good, and that will not change.

Say it three times, making it personal, believing it.  The consecrated woman said it to us, letting the words wash over us like cleansing water, as energy for the soul.  I can’t say I’m totally convinced myself, but I have hope that my heart will soon catch up with head, overcoming that disparity.

I’ve been so afraid for a long time of my actions, where I’m going, how I’m going to get there.  I suppose that’s what’s really holding me back from asking for a Director, as well as visiting with those at the seminary I hope to attend in the near future:  Fear, and attachments here still.  Do I settle said attachments before I go, or just leave, and hope that the environmental shift will have a much needed, profound effect on me?  It’s not apparent yet.

However, the last thing she left us with was one message, the most needed message for me, the one that she knows was given to her by God to pass on to us.  It was this: “I trust you.

Yeah we’re unworthy, sure we think we’re pretty unlovable when we fail, yes I oftentimes think I’m failing Him by my choice of path, and yes, I’m definitely afraid of that trust being placed in me, but He did.  He does.  He loves us as we are, and He believes in us.

And that is enough reason to stand tall – or as tall as you can when you’re as short as I am – and live on.  He saved me from getting killed or seriously injured in a wreck for a reason; saved me from a lot of stupid decisions I could have made in a lot of different areas, and will again in future, because I have a purpose.

My work isn’t done, and if I still believe in what He put in my heart at Eagle Eye and Abide, then my path is one of greatness.  I would be a fool to set that aside.

So here I am, off on another Eagle Eye adventure, ‘ere the sun rises.  I’m sticking with it, my life, because it’s what I’ve been given.  Do the same, because He made you good.  And that will never change.

-M

All Or Nothing (The Addict)

I’ve gone through many addictions in my relatively short life.  I’m not proud of a number of them.  Others are of no consequence.  Still others have their ups and downs, a cycle of choice and rejection, again and again.

Coffee is a good example of the last.  I go through a period of time where I find myself drinking it, day in and day out, without fail.  I want to feel it, like a fire coursing through my veins, keeping me from exhaustion.  I view every moment of sleep as a moment wasted, and I try to avoid the night.  My main goal is to stave back slumber until only absolutely necessary, and then succumb as my eyes begin to blur.

Then I realize that I don’t want to live like that, reliant on a drug to keep me up and about, and I stop.  How long I stop varies.  A day passes, then two, then the headaches start, and I fight through.  A day after those headaches vanish passes, then two… then inevitably, I find myself taking a sip of the drink.  I can’t escape it.  It’s too tempting.

Maybe it’s not problematic that I don’t have self-mastery over such a small area.  I don’t know, I just hate the feeling I get after going without it, and the feeling I also get when I spend too much on the drink at school.
It’s also clear to me that if I don’t have self-mastery in this small area, then perhaps it’s also safe to say that I will find difficulty in self-mastery over larger matters, which… I already have.

Over these past weeks, I feel like there are lapses in my memory, gaps where there should be something, where I should be remembering… something important.  My life has reached the point where it’s becoming a blur, and the moments that stick out are my only reference points to hold on to.  Alas, some of them are not so conducive to keeping one’s head on straight as I would like.

Still, I welcome the blur.  The swirling colors, all coming together, in their various shades and hues.  I would say I’m addicted to the feeling of spinning in the current.  Any second that I find myself emerging is a moment of weakness to me, and so I inevitably seek to be busy.  Busy busy busy.  Ever thought about that word?  It doesn’t always lead to being productive.  So I get obsessed with this idea of being busy, I get addicted to the endless cycle, and things that are important become mere flashes in the mind, until I’m faced with the reality that I have work to do.

A procrastinator’s dream interrupted.

I don’t have any advice this time.  I say a lot of things, trying to understand even myself, follow my own ideals, but as you can see, I’m not good about that.  This is more a plea for help than anything I’ve posted before.  I realize that I need prayers, that I don’t have everything together, and that if I can’t get most in place, some very vital life plans that lie contingent upon that fact might go very, very awry.  I wish to give my due attention to the spectacular now, as I have said, but even that seems to be passing by too quickly and yet too slowly.  I feel like something’s catching up to me, yet it’s taking its sweet time about it.

I want to go, discover who I’m truly called to be, whether by determining that I’m not to go a certain route or that I should in fact go.  But it feels so far.  So very far.  If you can’t tell already, I have a lot of fears about how things are supposed to go.  I know I have to trust, and that there is someone who can be trusted, but moments have this infuriating fashion of taking their sweet… time.  Trapped, but hoping to find that spark here.

I don’t know, but I have no time to write more.  I’m about to go to this thing called driving and square dancing, and it should be fun.  I want to find joy in it, but I’ve had difficulties lately.  So I request, once more, that you pray for me, as I pray for you.  Because I’ve been addicted to a lot of things that have held me back from being me, a sentiment I’m sure many of you may share.  And I suppose, if it’s any comfort, though time is painful, it also brings healing.  And maybe I’ll be searching for a long while, but I can at the very least say that I’m still seeking.  That perhaps is an addiction I can accept.

-M

Nightfever: A Good Man (Internal) – Abide Pt. 10.5

Despondent.

That was me during the latter half of the night and during a part of the bus ride.  You’d think the best place to find God is when He’s there right before your eyes, but no, this time, it was in the Spirit’s movement through good men.  I shall speak of the impact of two souls here: Matthew’s, and Robbie’s.

As Nightfever concluded, I ended up boarding the bus after a time of wandering cleaning, my spirit bogged down in ways that were not wholly earned.  A pain that felt like I had no right to own.  I lacked a worthiness for suffering, if that makes sense.

I sat in the back, thinking to avoid everyone and just try to rest.  As God would have it, I didn’t end up alone.  Matthew, someone who I barely knew, ended up sitting next to me, there in the back of that old bus.  We could have sat there and ignored one another, or maybe even joined in with some of the uproarious singing, but no, we were blessed with something greater: letting the Spirit speak.

He initiated the conversation, and I reluctantly shared what had happened during NightFever.  When I met the man, Robbie, and heard about his life, I remember an internal pain cutting me deeply, the kind that hunts out every gift and sees that there are worthier man who should have had as much if not more.  Robbie has a family, and a life filled with loss and pain, things that I won’t go into detail here because it’s not my story to tell.  He has faced so much, and still he continues on.  Before he left St. Louis church, he told me and Pablo that each day was a struggle, his own hope for the future fading.  That knowledge… it… it broke something in me.

I have so much in earthly goods, and yet I complain about lacking, of struggling, when in truth it is he who struggles with a darker, more painful reality.  A reality that I could never dream of experiencing, let alone surviving day in and day out.  I wanted to understand, to truly empathize, to feel his suffering, and all I could do was stand by, unable to help in any way more than prayer.  And even then, when I tried to pray, I could only picture a pain in the soul, a very self-centered pain.

I wanted to take his burdens onto my own shoulders, not in a good and holy way of dying to myself to live for him, but a disordered desire to escape my own pains in life.  To forget both my own sufferings and joys.  Forget myself and throw aside the gifts that God had given me.  Pain found in trying to heal someone, and there my own hope was brought low.  Yet this man, this brave soul, he fights on.  And as I saw him off into the night, part of me remained with him, and him with me.

Compassionate.  That was what God, speaking through Matthew, told me I was.  In my effort to help and heal the hopeless, He allowed me to share in the suffering, and as such, draw closer to His Divine Love.  My compassion was what laid me low, bringing me to a place where I experienced pain in my desperate attempt to bring aid.  Full understanding of that man’s situation will never come, but that belief in me by our great God above, that was enough.  My own selfish desire to flee for my own sake evaporated.

I stopped running, turned, and I shared my own story, some of my darkest secrets, past and present, in an effort to bring them to light and let the Spirit heal them.  It was through my vulnerability that Matthew himself opened up to me about his life, and we saw greatness in one another, the truth of the living Christ steadfast.

I told him of the tug on my heart, pulling me to the priesthood; the image I’d received and the voice I’d heard that week; and of her, my lovely friend, who had helped me grow in so many ways, and as such, marked me evermore.

Marriage to the Church or marriage to a beautifully human wife… wonderful desires, and to me, each just about as equally hard to lay down as the other.  Matthew put it in perspective for me: “Either way, you could end up marrying her.”
I had to laugh at that, for it was true.  That was definitely a positive.
Devotion and service to the Church touches each person united in the Body of Christ, and that meant… well… there you have it.

As we were having this really, really intense conversation, I was vaguely aware of the noise levels climbing all around us.  As our talk drew to a close, I realized that everyone was experiencing His presence, and the Spirit was flowing through the sheer joy emanating from each person there.  They were singing so magnificently, led by Mike, and here I was laughing again, my entire form tingling as if energy was coursing through my veins.

My mind wasn’t clear and free of worry, but the foundations of my own hope and trust had been relaid.  I won’t forget Robbie or any of the people I met that night, and I pray that their faces will remain etched in my memory, for Christ was truly shown to me through each of them.
Jim, our main speaker, had asked us to find our theme for the week, and this was mine: Joy in the suffering.

TBC – M

Dragon & Dreamer – Abide Pt. 9

St. Gertrude met outside on the lawn, all coming together for our parish meeting. We comprised nearly half of all the participants, so it required some splitting off to get a handle on.

I went with DJ, Mike, Joe, Craig, and Connor. Together, we sat in the air conditioned hall and talked about our next steps as they related to letting the Spirit work in our real lives, outside this Haven.  It was after all, only a matter of time.  Reluctant though we were as guys, we didn’t remain too silent. Each of us had our turn to speak, because we didn’t want Abide to just be a dazzling moment, we wanted it to make an impact that would mark us as we moved forward.

We got back in time for the talks, and of the two, I chose How To Respond over Let’s Pray.  I needed to know how to speak in charity and in love, and that’s exactly what I got.  Sister Rose, to begin, let me stand. I knew that I’d be falling asleep and dozing off if I so much as touched a chair, so I kept myself uncomfortable in order to be fully aware.  As it turned out, I might not have needed to stand.  The talk was so engaging, the Sister so full of life, that I was wide awake and able to shake off the exhaustion less than a fourth of the way in.

The main and beautiful point went further than being charitable even when speaking out against those who despised you. Yes, it gave the concrete plan of looking for those good qualities in the other’s statement.  Because that’s really what makes an argument more than just an endless yelling back and forth: the idea of looking for those commonalities and finding a starting point that can be agreed upon.  It teaches one to listen and be attentive, and really take what’s being said and find beauty in it, no matter how angrily it might have been presented to you.  Charity in the face of adversity, and love in the face of even something so strong as hatred.

For the same reason that we don’t reduce people to their attractions, we have to look for the truth behind their words, the interior beyond the exterior.  Both, to be truly successful, require love: the bridge across which truth walks.  And I know that’s a line I’ve repeated countless times, but it always needs saying, again and again until it becomes internalized, just like anything good and beautiful.

Despite these words (and some more I’ll add from my notes once I get ahold of them again), I remembered my position being attacked, as if it was targeted by the dragon, coming immediately after my declaration of openness to the pursuit of that path: Priesthood.  I stayed behind after the talk to speak with Sister personally, and asked for her help.  I have to confess, peace, charity, and all those things we’d literally just heard were far from my mind.

Turmoil… anger… but also an acceptance that there was truth to the statement… years before.  In a summary of her words, while what was done was wrong, there have been many steps taken to correct the faults of the past.  Those actions, while not so long gone, do not speak to the overwhelming majority of those who live that life.

~With great power comes great responsibility~

Regarding me and my view, I realize that, held to that high standard, they have so much further to fall, and as such, their faults are more closely examined.  Yet truly, when seen alongside other professions, it is the oh so very few, the one percent, that have committed such grave sins.  Thus, we continue to work towards atonement and renewal, seeking to become more perfect in our ways.

In light of this, I will continue to pursue that pull toward that vocation, a vocation which remains unmarred by the sinful actions of its members, and move forward to serve as God intended I do, not weighing my own merits, but ever hopeful in His plan for my life.
I have to thank Sister Rose for what she said, for it was by her words that a great burden on my spirit was lifted, and continued to be later that night.

Fury was in the heart and mind, of the dreamer and his hope despised.
Called by One who spoke of love, and the clarion trumpet, resounding greatness high above.
Challenged by the darkest eye, a battle of the will to die.
Anger though barely restrained, comfort found in the Sister’s ways.
Chaotic though his nature be, hope for love would set him free.   A path, a way, a hope, and Haven; The chosen road be laid and straightened.
No more should fear rule in his life, the holy cross he’ll take through time.
If fully called he truly be, then God will guide both you… And me.

M

To The Final Night – Eagle Eye Teen Summer Institute Pt. 15

We guys ate food next as the girls who desired to went back for another swim. I had some fantastic pudding thing. It was really quite rich tasting. We finished our afternoon on the farm by closing with an early vespers, standing there in a wide circle, feeling every breath of air as the wind whistled around us, the cars driving past.  Upon our return, we had our final theology class, going into a bit of Revelation, where we see God’s justice playing out and our participation in it at the end of time.
My notes there were lacking.  So lacking.

Now I’ll be perfectly honest, like I always strive to be, but I’ve forgotten so very much of that last evening, it’s almost depressing.  I remember dinner, having a last fantastic round of entertainment, the cheering, the laughter… but the details, the finer points, are all gone.

I know we had our last hour of adoration together, I can still picture standing and kneeling in the loft, looking at everyone in prayer before God in the Blessed Sacrament. And yet other words fail me… I remember serving Benediction with Dan and Father Francis, watching as He was placed in the tabernacle, and all the while outside, the sounds of life as people went about as the festival ran its course.  What happened between then and our departure is also lost. If there was anything, my brain never retained it and I regret that deeply. Yet…

Running. That’s what happened as we grabbed all our things. Just racing towards the vans for the second time that day as we learned that our traditional campfire at the shrine’s fire ring wouldn’t be able to happen.  We got into the vans as the darkness deepened in the night sky. I remember singing and shouting like a madman before we truly loaded ourselves onto the bus.

Half an hour and several wrong turns later, our convoy of vans made it to the host home around… oh… around 8 or 9pm. Already late, we rushed to make sure the chairs were set and the fire lit.  Then my small group had an emergency convention to finalize our skit.  Heh.
We delivered it with much gusto, considering the impromptu nature of its creation, barely holding in our nervous laughter as we played it out: Father Nathan, Brother Mairesean, and Father Francis daydreaming in adoration. And then… Brother Benedict coming in for the ending blow. Literally.

There were songs, art, and poetry, and then… well, I mean, I had a song.  I couldn’t resist the urge… so I asked Sister Kareen if she still had any spots left, and by the grace of God, I managed to fit into the schedule that was already so tightly packed.
I sang Like The Dawn by The Oh Hellos, calling to mind Adam’s first sighting of Eve. It just felt like it fit, even if I was so warbly and quaking in my knees.
Oh, but Father Nathan’s harmonica, CJ’s guitar, Ethan’s banjo, and Greg’s flute (pretty sure it was a flute and not a piccolo anyway) combined… sweet greatness it was good.
As we ended that night in prayer, we knew, final as it was, that that gathering was only the beginning for us. There was so much more to come.

And it was with that knowledge in mind that I fell into slumber more than an hour later.

TBC – M

In The Waters… – Eagle Eye Teen Summer Institute Pt. 14

“Oh dear, we are in trouble.” – My thought while doggedly swimming.

My plan to finish before Abide failed, so now I’m just writing to finish before everything fades. There’s a part of me that regrets that I’m basically rushing this now, but my brain can only keep so much! I promise if there’s anything I feel I need to expand upon further, I will.

Flashback a good seven or eight hours.  I was up in time for morning lauds, that much I said before.

Today was a talkative breakfast! In honor of Mary, we abandoned our traditional silence and ate and laughed uproariously. Because honestly, our Mum would be so proud of our crazily unique personalities.

What followed was a final gathering for Lectio, something I wish I had documented. I think that was the day we took the green benches on the field and sat around, partially doing Lectio and partially planning for the final campfire. It actually kinda hurts to say that, even though it’s in the past already… but then, now so much else is as well.  For our final philosophy class… you know what, I’m done saying final for a bit. It bugs me too much, so I’m just going for it:

Justice is not abstract, nor is it universal as shown in law, for especially in cases of law, justice is found in its application to particular situations, in real contexts. Not every case is the same, and they require an individual, particular response.
Justice, going back to that first point found in the nature of things, is when the agent/lawbreaker is given his due, and as we have already explored, their due is advancement. In the case of lawbreakers, the truly just decision must be one characterized by rehabilitation to allow their growth to continue.
How do we make such a decision? It requires love. Because how else would we be willing to at least try to help the person grow and become who they really are more perfectly?
Just justice can be loving, and all love must be just.

Thus we see that justice in its truest form is part of love, of God’s infinite mercy, for they require one another for fulfillment.

Possibly confusing, but I truly did try, I assure you.
What followed next was a quick choir session, then it was Mass time. I headed for the back to get vested and found one of… well… not totally unreasonable fit. I kept nearly tripping however, which was not good for Mass.

After Mass, something happened that was best described as a run for everywhere.
We had to get to our rooms, get changed, grab everything we might need for an afternoon on a farm, and then meet at the vans.  Our time spent there was something else, let me tell you.  The girls took first swimming shift while the guys crowded one room in the host family’s house and watched Tomas (?) playing the piano, one of Beethoven’s pieces I believe.  It was just… phenomenal.  We then headed for the pond as the girls finished their swimming some minutes later.

Let’s set the stage though: little raft + lots of guys = king of the… raft.  Naturally, I was booted off in short order, and, deciding to head for shore, I took off swimming.

Unfortunately for myself… I had underestimated the distance back.  The raft had drifted beyond the center of the lake towards the far side, and so I miscalculated.  As I was swimming, my legs, which had already been in pain earlier, stopped.  They stopped.  Couldn’t move them properly, couldn’t generate any reasonable propulsion, and I was still a good 30 or 40 feet from shore.  I didn’t panic just then, but I felt myself sliding into an upright position, my mouth swallowing a good amount of water in the process as I went down.  I considered attempting emergency treading, but dismissed the idea rather quickly, instead gamely pushing on toward shore using basically just my arms.  Oh my weak legs, how useless you were.  I was so close to shore when I went fully under, and that’s when the slight panic but also rather amused thoughts set in:

“Oh dear, my eulogy is going to be beyond lame.” was one thought, and the picture that came to mind was of the other Eaglets saying: “Dude, you seriously had to go and drown on the second to last day, didn’t you?”
It was only a few moments after completing such morbid thoughts that I felt my hand touch pebbles, but alas, they were slippery and my feet had nothing to stand on, so with everything that was left in me, I clambered out by the tips of my fingers.
I dragged myself onto the grass, and just lay there gasping for a moment, thinking: “Yeah, that’s me done for the day.”

TBC – M

Before The Dawn – Eagle Eye Teen Summer Institute Pt. 13

I awoke with hardly a drowsy feeling this time. Perhaps it was the prospect of seeing Jesus that got me into that state, perhaps it was just a particular grace that I received. At any rate, I was up and dressed to go, my mind startlingly clear as I started down the steps to our little chapel in the retreat house.

Quietly, Cameron and I walked in and moved to opposite ends of the room, I myself gauging where the clearest position was. I had no wall to put my back to, that would have made it too easy to fall asleep, so I knelt there briefly before seating myself in a more comfortable position.  Turmoil had been expected at seeing a number of others there, yet oddly, they calmed me more than anything during that time.

It was in that hour that I prayed, not as forcibly as I would in times of great distress (it’s not a great picture, involves a lot of me babbling non-stop and rather incoherently), but instead in a collected manner, my mind racing along a guided path, forming connections as they came to me.  I thought of my friends that were there in that hour with me, my family and others scattered to the winds, and the blank slate that was the future. I tried journaling, reading from Revelation, all oddly quiet in this old head of mine. Nothing really spoke with the force of a rampaging bull, and yet…

I don’t normally share what I write in my journal during adoration, but for this one occasion, I’ll make an exception.  My odd words are as follows, written that night when my mind was deceptively void:

“Lord, I ask that before You grant me the gift of knowing my vocation, You first grant me the strength, sense of justice, the righteousness, and the wonder of a good man. Whatever I be called to be.”

Plain and simple. I confess, I was confused when I went to sleep an hour later, but it seemed to make sense when I awoke later that day. I wasn’t meant to know yet, for I was – and still am – stuck in this instant gratification mindset that Brother Philip spoke to me about, something that had to be changed. And I personally think, if I did know right here and now, I’d be smashed flat with the foreknowledge of what I’d be undertaking. And thus, it is in that that I can take some small comfort, being free to live in the moment without obligation to chase that one path just yet. After all, there is much that married men can learn from priests, and vice versa.

At the conclusion of the hour, I stealthed my way (because the girls were sleeping) back upstairs, where I then promptly crashed again for three or so hours before morning Lauds, a calm entrance into the travels of slumber.

Oh dear, there I go using up a whole post again.

TBC – M