Wholehearted Dancing

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written more based on these funny little things called memories than just thoughts pulled out of my head, so this is a bit of a novelty.

Two things this past week (and when I say past, I mean when I started this):
– An ordination
– A swing dance

Looking at that, you might wonder to yourself how these things are connected, but to my mad mind, they are.  Or, perhaps life is just that way, with its multiple, varied, seemingly random connections.

However, to start is going to require a bit of backstory.  Gotta love backstories, they usually detail how villains came to be or how your favorite hero got that new name they have now, or all sorts of other things.

Some weeks ago, I was invited to go to the ordination by our vocations director, Father Schmitmeyer (gee, I hope I spelled his name right).  Not only that, but I was invited to sit with the current seminarians.  How could I possibly turn such an offer down?

Cut to the event on the 20th of May 2017 Anno Domini, and I find myself walking through the great exterior doors of the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Chains in downtown Cincinnati.  I had been there many times before, but that day, there was an extra… awesomeness to it.  The cathedral was already full, the choir was practicing, and I was looking for those that I would sit with.

You must understand, I am a rather short fellow, so even when the majority of the congregation is sitting, I can’t easily crane my neck to find certain people or groups.  Now, Father Schmitmeyer, he’s a tall priest, and picking him out of a crowd is usually a piece of cake, but of course, he was nowhere to be seen.  Panicking slightly, like you do when time is ticking away before the Mass begins, I hurried up the right aisle, then back down, trying to be inconspicuous – which is hard to do when you’re the only one walking – and then up the left aisle after a brief pause for fresh air.

I saw my friend Nick, talked with him briefly, asked where Father was, and then suddenly I happened upon my fellow Aspirants.  No, not Aspirins, as I thought, but Aspirants, people who aspire to – you know what, you get it.  If not, Google it.

I took the second row, being keen to see the procession up close.  My friends Ian and Jeff, fellow Aspirants (and one of them already a confirmed future seminarian), arrived, and well, there went my aisle seat temporarily.  They’re both pretty tall compared to me, just like the majority of the population, so I asked whether I could switch seats, and lo and behold, I got the aisle seat again.  My thanks, Jeff.

Casting my gaze around, I noticed several people who got me smiling (well, more widely than one can smile on such a momentous day):  St. Gertrude friends and the seminarians!  I’ll detail them later, seeing as I saw the majority following Communion.

Ah, but the Mass.  One of my all-time favorites, up there with the Chrism Mass, the Easter Vigil, you get the picture.  The thing is, comparing them can’t really be done.  They’re all brilliant, all in their own different ways.  Each displays a different facet of the Church, a uniquely beautiful part as varied as the people that make up the Church.

I was blessed to receive the Eucharist from one of the new priests, Father Alex, and when I returned to my seat, I saw old friends.  Molly, Mr. Bursa, Mr. Dorsey, Father Paul, Father Tom, Father Muhlenkamp, Maria, Abigail, and others.

How to describe it?  The priests smiling widely at the applause from the congregation, lying prostrate before the altar, the first blessing received from each later on in the undercroft, it was all magnificent.  I felt so proud, and also rather… I don’t know, wistful?  Nostalgic?  Those aren’t the right words.  But something was happening that afternoon, and it’s going to take more processing to find out what it was.  Perhaps a number of returns for future ordinations will explain.

Still, while I won’t forget what took place for the priests, there was one thing for me.  Mr. Dorsey happened upon me during the reception, and we talked briefly.  In that talk however, I told him what I intended to do with my future, where I thought I was called to go.  Has anyone ever told you that they’d pray for you?  It might sound silly at times, I know I think so on occasion, because I just feel weird afterward, but this instance was different.  It just… helps to know one isn’t forgotten, and this was only further heightened when the newly ordained Father Alexander said he remembered me from Saint Gertrude!  I confess I felt rather stunned, and was obviously very pleased about it.

Now, I’m going to leave that for a bit, and fast forward five days later.

It was nighttime, a little past 8:30, and my brother, friend, and I were walking into a small, quaint little structure.  We climbed the three flights of stairs, trying to be as quiet as possible.  Above, voices could be heard, and we emerged into a dance lesson already underway.

We joined in with some alacrity, and found ourselves setting foot into the semi-madness known as the Shim Sham.  While I managed to see and imitate about 80% of the dance, making those steps my own left much to be desired.  Ah well, I shall return to it with a good will.  It was in those moments where my mind was focused and serious about it that I was able to keep up best.  You might say that that goes against the whole point of dancing.  I would reply, “My good sir/madam, dancing is a very serious thing!”

Which brings me to the next part of the night.  After the lesson, the actual dance started, and wow, I actually recognized people outside of my group.  An old Chick-Fil-A coworker, a seminarian, another parishioner, etc.  I danced with many of my friends that night, and I will say it went… interestingly.  Look, I don’t usually mean to do this, but I analyze how my partner and I dance together.  Not just the basic, “oh, are we compatible at this sort of thing?” but the style presented by the duo formed.

I danced with a total of… *mentally counts* five different girls?  That sounds about right, seeing as I danced with our entire crew.  Yes.  Five.  Each one had their own unique quality of dancing, and I found myself doing different moves or conversing differently with each one.

Now, you must understand, when I dance, I have a bad habit of constantly apologizing for not really having a repertoire of moves.  The only time I won’t apologize is when I’m too busy spinning the girl through a series which requires my absolute focus.  No room for messing up, no room for regrets.

That is my wholehearted dancing, when I am fully integrated into the moves, too busy to notice or be distracted by other factors.  When I really enter into something, I don’t do it by halves.  I have an all or nothing head, and this sort of thing has translated across all aspects of my life.

But… of the actual dancing, it was rather… amusing to note how my friends held themselves during their dances, or reacted.  Some were more forceful in their spins, others anticipated my next motion (correctly, for the majority), others were more tentative in the way they gripped my hand and spun, and still others nervously placed their hand on my shoulder like I might burn them at any moment!  Five friends, five styles, each one uniquely brilliant, and then of course, my usual preoccupation with my state in life came to the fore.

As your typical young human fellow, I wonder how it’s all supposed to go.  Dancing started becoming one of those lenses through which I beheld life (I find new ones every so quite often), and so my mind began to beg the question, “How’ll I find that right partner?  That one who will take my hand without hesitation, realize and accept that I’m not the best dancer, and just sort of go for it, wholeheartedly?  How am I going to dance and act such that they look and are the best, at least given my level of capability?”
Odd terms on which to think, but I remain a tiny bit hopeful that I’ll find that right partner if they’re out there.

So I called this wholehearted dancing, talking about the actual dancing, kinda sorta the wholehearted part, and I also had an ordination part.  That last one seems misplaced, possibly, unless you’ve already seen the thread I’m going with.

Wholehearted.  There’s that word.  This utter devotion to something.  Given unto it.  When we speak of the heart in most classical terms, it’s in the context of love or death (though, in a lot of cases, the two go hand in hand).  So these men, these brave young people, they have chosen a life of service to the Church.  At the ordination, they promised to die to themselves and live for others, for their flock.  A beautiful vow, an undoubtedly difficult commitment.  Their test is one of both death and love, a love modeled after Christ’s, by which He chose the Cross.

I can only hope to exemplify something so profound, for I am a little soul, as Saint Therese says we should view ourselves; for we are in truth, quite small compared to the infinite that is God.  So my small view of this world of mine, this little gift I can make of myself must thus be an entirety.  While it cannot measure up in any way, if we seek to be one with Christ, then we must do as He did, and give freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully.  Such love is difficult to attain, and man has not the ability to do it alone.  Thus I seek companionship, of a sort that will be of mutual benefit.  After all, one of my fears is that I will tear others down on their way to Him, and sometimes the opposite.

And so I find it difficult to find that balance, between the risk of closeness and vulnerability, and a distancing of self, to avoid being that trial.  Still the question returns again and again, how can I be wholehearted if I am always holding myself back from one path or another?  My older sister might say that I am what I’m supposed to be here and now, and not to live for some future version of myself, but I confess that it’s rather difficult to do that.  I am very much future oriented, perhaps so much so that more often than not I forget to appreciate what is happening now.

Oh the eternal struggle, jumping from one blurring moment to the next, waiting for some sort of fulfillment that will only come with the end of days.  I must say, it’s rather frustrating that emotion has had more of a part in my life in recent days than reason.  I wish to temper myself, and break free of the childish impulses to which I am prone.  They tell me to grow up, and I would like to, but I’d also like to do it properly.  I seek some measure of purpose, some measure of what I must become.  I am man, both body and soul, the head and the heart, and I seek full unity between them.

So right here and now I’ll dance, perhaps you’ll do the same, and if life is to be compared, we must do more than just the motions, putting all that we are into each step, if it is to become that masterpiece that God desires for us.

-M

Thought Into Existence – The 100th

Here’s the second of previously started writings that I never got around to posting. This, I believe, came from early September of last year.  Why did I choose this one?  It’s a fair question.  I think it’s rather significant, and there’s a lot that goes into thoughts.  This of course becomes personal, and possibly egotistical, but ah, perhaps it’s time you met more of who I am.  As I’ve reached this kind of milestone, I think it’s due time for some memories and that oh so fun and lovely thing known as nostalgia.  With that, I begin.

~

“We’ve stumbled upon something.  Because God is unceasingly thinking about us, we continue to exist.”  Approximately what my best friend said, though with less of her finesse or characteristic speech patterns.  It’s highly likely that I just did both an injustice.

A while back, we were discussing superpowers, of all things, and the idea of being able to think someone to you.  However long you’re focused and thinking about them, they remain present, and it’s only when they leave your mind that they return to wherever they were.  Naturally, this power is something that should have a number of caveats, like some amount of control as to when it works, otherwise you might have dozens or even hundreds of people popping into existence next to you for the briefest of instances.
Though of course, my mind would definitely turn its attention to such individuals, and well, there goes my peace and quiet.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about… people… a lot.  I guess it’s just in our human nature, to have others on our minds.  My time at work is devoted to focus on people.  There’s that connection that every interaction needs to have, and it’s truly a life skill to have, being able to touch people with the most basic of things.

Well, what more basic and heartfelt way is there than a prayer for them? That’s often what happens at work. Whenever there’s a lull in the number of incoming guests and while I’m maybe cleaning or restocking something, I might ask that my mind be focused on who it needs to.

An odd feeling, instinctual in nature, was what struck me.  It was at 5pm today, and I had no idea what caused it.  There I was, having an immensely enjoyable time at work, when suddenly I felt it internally, like a shiver that lacked the icy surroundings.  It’s hard to be sure, but I knew in that moment that something wrong had happened somewhere.
I couldn’t be sure if someone I knew had been affected, and so I did the only thing I could: asked God to help… someone out there.

*The physicality of my power is of course, limited – but by the universality of the Church, I can go quite far indeed. This is perhaps part of the beauty of faith, that we can believe and hope in goodness, even if we might never see the results of that which we hold to.

It’s like… Legacy. You don’t get to see what remains in the aftermath of your leaving, in your wake. Lots of people are concerned with what sort of mark they’re leaving, what lives on beyond them.  I can only hope that I make a good impact, whether physical or spiritual.  I want to bring my loved ones home with me.  I don’t want to lose them.  That’s the mark I wish for, the mark of those I surround myself with, living evermore.

~

When I started writing this blog roughly four years ago, I never thought that I would end up where I am today.  If I try to think back and remember what I was concerned about at the time, it was probably the next fun Scouting activity I would attend, or perhaps the upcoming youth group meeting with 1×1 at Saint Maximilian Kolbe, or maybe not looking dumb in front of some girl I was trying to impress.

Back then, I was more girl crazy than in recent times – shocker, I know – and I do apologize to anyone who has seen me in such a state, at any stage of my young life.  In conjunction with that, I was a more violent, more boisterous, and more brash character, things which I must again apologize for, as they are traits not yet vanished from who I am.
Still, there were positives.  I was a more avid reader, a person who was keen on drawing and making art in various media forms; someone who was not easily distracted or dissuaded from any goal, no matter how preposterous.  I loved really getting outside and breathing life in; not taking the heavens down to me in my confinement, but instead shooting upward to place myself among them like the many skyward sparks from the fire that I built with my own two hands.

Over the years, with each piece of media absorbed, I began to take on different characteristics of the people I saw, both fictional and not.  I believe I’m a very “feely” person, a very empathetic fellow, and oftentimes, being that sort of character can get me into good and bad mindsets.  In time, I took on the fun childishness of the Doctor, the witty cynicism of Fish, the imagination of Rose, the determination of Will, the rage and guilt of Batman and Daredevil, the force of Kestin and Edict, and the foolish hope of… oh, that might actually be mine.

The point is, I’ve changed, and more than I could have expected.  When I began, all those years ago, I never expected that leaving Scouting would push me onward to new adventures in Trail Life and Saint Gertrude.  The funny thing is, when I worked at Camp Friedlander, during staff week, we took a trip to St. Gertrude’s for an early Sunday Mass, which was one of my first experiences with the church.  And again, St. Gertrude’s returned when my older sister was leading me and my peers through the Ad Altare Dei religious emblem program, when we went there for vespers with the brothers.  Again, a third time, when my family was exploring different parishes, it almost became our home parish.  Almost.  And I think there was a very good reason for it not being so.

The reason?  If we had taken to Saint Gertrude, everything that is now, College Kenosis, my membership in the UC Society of Saint Paul, my role as an Altar Server at Annunciation, all of that would be nonexistent.  Perhaps even Eagle Eye would have been lost.  I can look back on those moments now and understand why things went a certain way, I see where the Spirit led me on this long road.
Thus, with the present hardships I’m facing, I can hope for the day that I get to look back on those and say: “Yes, this led me to the great here and now, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

I’ve been fortunate in my life to have been a part of many great communities:  Tang Soo Do, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Sacred Heart of Jesus Homeschool Group, Kali, St. Max, The RPG Group, Trail Life, St. Gertrude, my year’s P&G Resident Scholar Program family, Chick-Fil-A, The SSP, Eagle Eye and my fellow Eaglets, the CState Crew, and others that I’ve forgotten.

They all had or currently have their turn in forming me, and the people I have met have been guides, friends, and companions all.  I’ve lost a lot of them over the years.  Some faded from memory, some through my own fault, some with a heartfelt farewell, and some with a promise of renewal in some future day.

My legacy, my very heart, has been in my friends and family.  That’s why I think of them often, why they still exist to me in all the greatness that I knew them as.  They have been and always will be my spirit, and my strength is in them, no matter how much they change and vanish into their own futures, their own separate paths, and no matter how weak I myself become.

The weight of life is heavy, and it is painful to carry alone, we all know this.  As I’ve changed, feeling a strange vulnerability that I hardly experienced in younger years, as my eyes were opened to this world I live in, others were my guardians, and they saw me through the most desperate of times.

That’s who I am.  I am many, yet one.  I am the amalgamation of my experiences, I am the countless lives I have dreamed, but most importantly, I am the son of the Most High.
I am… Migi.

To everyone in my life, thanks for being part of my journey.

Dreams, Daredevil, and… La La Land?

So, I recently watched this movie, perhaps you’ve heard of it?  La La Land.

You might be asking, “How in the world can you relate the grim, dark world of Daredevil to La La Land?”  Well, I’m glad you asked, my good humans, because I’m about to do it terribly.  Full disclosure, I’m basically spoiling some stuff from both, so… you’ve been warned I guess?

Let’s start with Daredevil.  It’s a world on fire, heh heh.  Two sides, Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk, duking it out in a battle that requires everything that they have.

Their two worldviews stand in direct opposition to one another, but both seek what seems like a common goal: saving the city, making it a better place.
And yet they remain incompatible.  Why?  Well… one wants it in their image, controlled like crazy, and the other wants it to be free of all the crooks and thugs that plague it.  It’s… yeah okay, it’s kinda obvious.  Drat.  My bad.
Hell’s Kitchen is a mess of power, and these two opponents are… actually a mess in their own right, but that’s something I want to save for another, more focused post.

The point is, they have these goals, these dreams for their city.  They’re willing to sacrifice basically everything to reach it, both walking on their own dark, individualized paths, only able to play the game a few steps ahead at a time once they figure out that there’s another player on the board.

~

Now, La La Land, a recent watch of mine, and something I enjoyed, even if certain naysayers *cough, an Eaglet friend, cough* despised it, was also basically all about… dreams and sacrifice.  In a different way, obviously.  The two main characters aren’t exactly out to wreck each other’s plans, but… well…

That’s kind of the key thing at the end of the movie: the sacrifices involved, and the choices made.  No human ever knows how things are going to turn out in the end, we know this fact.  It’s only after the long move has been made that we look back and say: “Oh, I could have done it this way.” but even that view may be an idealism, unrealistic, and most likely disregarding the true challenges that would have been faced had said route been taken.

Dreams however, are good, even ones involving the past.  Indeed, Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia (which I’ve been working through reading with my Kenosis group/fam/whatever over at Ruah Woods) says that a family without dreams is dead.  I’m paraphrasing from memory of course, because I lent the paper to another student to read, and now I don’t know where it is.  The point still stands.

Dreams are important: they’re how we visualize where we want to go, whether in general or moving on from a situation  – in those cases where our dreams tap into memory.  It’s a balance, and it’s risky, dreaming about life.  Nothing will ever go fully according to dream or plan, yet one has to willing to accept the consequences.

A year ago today, I had… a different experience of life.  An hour or so from now (when I wrote these specific words, obviously), one year ago, on a cold Saturday night.  Thanks Facebook memories, you’re both a blessing and a curse.  Feels like a different lifetime, really; one of those dreams that you wake up from and laugh at, because it was probably impossible in reality.  And yet it happened.  It really did, and it was good.  Even the buzzing in my ears at the end.

And that’s the thing that La La Land is real about, why I can appreciate it.  At the end, when the two main characters have had their little montage of “what if they had worked it all out differently”, they just kind of look at each other.  They look at each other, and then they smile.  And after that smile, comes the nod, as if to say with all sincerity and love: “Well, here we are.  We made our dreams reality.  And isn’t that fantastic?”

The thing is, spoiler again, they’re not together.  After all that time spent united, working together, loving and supporting one another, they got the premature farewell, when things were looking up for them once more.  That’s why it felt more realistic.  The choices they made changed where the sacrifice lay; by pursuing their individual dreams, they sacrificed their being together.  And that’s not a bad thing unless you look at it from that viewpoint that they should have ended up in the expected, movie finale way.

I say no, it was a good ending, and there’s something there worth striving for: Acceptance.  That’s where that “handy, if annoying at the worst of times” serenity prayer comes in.  There are things we can’t change, things we have to let go, and things we can do right here, right now, standing in front of us.  Dreams, if they hold us back, are a danger; dreams ignored and pushed aside are too.

~

The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.

– The Doctor

~

The point is, I try to remember the past fondly, including all those embarrassing moments I experienced.  They made me who I am today, with my current dreams.  So, stealing another quote from Doctor Who: “To days to come.  All my love to long ago.”

Life is a complicated, ebb and flow of roads.  A bunch of highways with loopbacks and dead ends, and all sort of mental mishap on the way, but hopefully there is one singular destination.  Now, before they get there, some people have roads that cross multiple times.  Some have the high road, and others take the low road.  Some take a very long time before they cross again, as was the case with the movie, but in the end, they were able to accept what had happened.  They found their peace.

As for Daredevil and me watching it… well, I have yet to reach the part where one of their dreams is fulfilled, and I’m definitely not at peace waiting for the next part of that great and yet terribly cliff-hangery series.

So, try to find peace with your present situation, even if it does feel like that part in a TV series where everything is going wrong, your favorite characters are dying, and unresolved plot after unresolved plot follows (heh).  It gets better in time.  There’s no clock I can reference, but it will.  You just have to see it through.  Like the battle for Hell’s Kitchen.  It gets darker and more gruesome before the enemy’s gate is down (ah, that Ender’s Game reference).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to listen to “A Lovely Night” for the gazillionth time while writing a dastardly paper.  I’m living in the moment, livin’ the dream.  And you should too.

-M

The Paths We Choose… – Abide Pt. 12 Finale

How do you start the day? You wake up, maybe shower, get dressed in a desired set of clothes, and then kind of just begin, right? The point is, there’s a certain preparation involved there. A time before you truly move and go out to face the day. All in this world had a beginning, and all will have an end. Maybe not the most pleasant thought, but then of course, if nothing ever ended, nothing would ever get started.

Of course, that begs the question, what started all those movements? What or Who is the first mover? Because we all had to have come from somewhere, tracing lines back and oh so further back until nothing remained, no time, no space, just Him. Because no mere thing could have started us at the beginning, no accident could have led to our lives, there’s too much order there to claim happy accident. To everything, there is a purpose and path that it follows… and that includes us, my dear friends.

May I just say, before I launch into the end of this, that it is my honor and privilege to have you read about the things I experienced during this journey, as with every journey. It’s given me a unique opportunity to share, and also to recount, that I myself may never forget. I hope never to forget, because this was one of my many beginnings, a mark across my life.

I was outside, having dressed rather hurriedly, hoping to see the last sunrise of retreat. I missed it by a bit, but the sun was still calling me. I stood out there, looking heavenward, and who should have been preordained to arrive, but one of the core team, Megan. She asked me how my week had been and whether I’d found a theme, and normally, I would have said a simple, “Oh, it was good, and yes.” without much elaboration beyond that basic thought, but this time, I decided to share.

So I told her what had happened in a rather overarching idea that ended with the theme: joy in the suffering. That was my gift from God, that I would experience suffering in the time I could physically see Him, so that when I would eventually feel alone and in pain in the future, I would remember His presence. I would remember that He had not abandoned me then, and He would not abandon me now in time of distress.

I think I stunned her a bit with my uncharacteristically blunt honesty, but we didn’t have much time to discuss it further. She was on her own mission, and I was on my own way. I prayed the Angelus out there one more time (such a beautiful prayer it is, thank you Eagle Eye), and then headed inside.  I found my friends seated, as with previous days, waiting. Father Michael Mary arrived, he blessed the food, and we went in for breakfast.

Our morning keynote, our last keynote, spoke of our purpose, how each of us has our part in a greater story; greater perhaps, than we could have imagined. Case in point: Frodo and the his quest to destroy the Ring. He never saw the great movements he inspired by his self sacrifice, only heard tell of them in the aftermath. We never know what our part is in the grand scheme of things, but we can be assured of greatness; perhaps not of the kind that brings a dark lord’s kingdom crashing down as the earth quakes and enemies are reduced to ashes, but a kind that saves souls, returning them to the Lord’s own great and wondrous light. Our true calling.

We had final parish meetings all around, speaking of what was next for us. I managed to talk with my youth group leader before Mass, and he promised to reconnect the following week, to set me on my path during my college years. Then, at the conclusion of Mass, with all our families gathered, the farewells began: pictures, luggage grabbing, and goodbyes between old and new friends. While this was happening, I found myself speaking to Father Michael on the subject of spiritual direction, having already begun the movement that Matthew, Sister Rose, and Brad had all recommended to me.

As I talked with Father about this question on vocations I was having, I saw many of my friends walking out the doors, and I was aware that for many, it would be the last time I would see them for a long while, if ever again. Part of me wanted to go and rush to say farewell before it was too late, but I stayed rooted, listening and paying attention to what might well have set in motion the next stage of my life. That decision might well have seen to what I became next; my internal promise to obey Him, no matter what the cost.

Because in the end, it’s not up to me to decide that oh so tricky thing called fate. My path was seen long ago and far ahead, known and prepared by the One who made me. And no matter how many friends leave or sorrows I face, I must remember that something greater lies ahead. A greatness that I will understand at the end… the end which is a new beginning.

– M

Calm Amidst Chaos – Abide Pt. 11

Joyful. Laughing. Actually breathing life in.

That was me when we got back to MSJU, and my friends on the bus saw it. Some of them were asking whether I was okay, I remember that much. I think what happened next was a quick move to small groups, because that’s the only way it makes sense in my head. DJ led us out to the furthest reaches and into one of the buildings, but as it turned out, they were closing for the night, so we ended up getting kicked out. Not a bad thing, simply requiring a reconvening which we managed with some semblance of grace.

As luck would have it, we ended up in one of the main hallways, sitting back against the walls and trying to speak with a level of normality that we wouldn’t otherwise have had, had the situation not required it. As such, we were rather out of it, finding even the most undeserving thing hilarious, though everyone’s story was quite a joy to hear. I can’t really write about what the others experienced, for in truth I was too far gone to really take note of everyone’s Nightfever, but it was an opportunity to just be.

Small groups ended (though we ran overtime) and we staggered out into the lounge area to acquire what was left of the food before staff took it away. I had a lemon meringue… thing. Cake piece. Not really important in the grand scheme of things, but it was good. I talked to my friend briefly, had some cake with her, and it was a good time. I don’t recall what we said, but then, when capture the flag happens, you can’t help but be distracted. I was on purple team/bus 1, but the game was not to be for me. In one of my earlier posts, I spoke of Sister Rose’s talk, and how her work with me that day was not over. This was it.

So, after telling my friend some of what Matthew had spoken to me about, I left her for the game in the darkness. We found the boundaries, scattered to hide our flags, and then went all for it, I cleverly concealing myself in the night… actually not that cleverly, it was probably cheating, but I concealed my purple glowstick wristband or whatever on my wrist with my other hand, boldly walking straight over the line in search of the flag. Nobody stopped me, or perhaps nobody thought I was playing, because I didn’t run, shout, or do anything any of the normal players did, I was just… there. A silent shadow.

Now, I could have helped win that game, but I saw the Sisters sitting on the wall, talking with some of the participants and prisoners of the early game chases. Sister Rose in turn spotted me, and asked whether I wanted to talk then and there. I agreed readily, and we took perhaps two or three turns about the grounds, pacing the stone paths, occasionally watching the madness ensuing all around us, but never quite touching us. I thought it was rather symbolic of something, but as it is, I’m not quite sure what just yet.

So we spoke, I sharing the warring natures within: the tug of priesthood on my heart, and the desire for my friend’s love and companionship. I pointed her out to Sister, though I was sure it was already known of whom I was speaking. I’m rather obvious like that, bad habit. It was a hard talk, because, well… she agreed with me.

I already knew from examples that I needed to keep a certain distance during my pursuit, and Sister shared with me her own story about a good friend who became a priest; not that she was ever attracted to him, but his wrestling with that decision of which vocation to pursue was apparently reminiscent of my own.  On the same note, she told me of the many women that are heartbroken when those men that they are close to leave for seminary and the priestly life. I felt rather terrible, even though I already knew that fact, thinking of the many times I failed to keep the friendship balanced between me and my friend.

Still, as our conversation progressed, I confessed that very fear of failure and uncertainty in this time of transition, the Spirit ever prompting me during this moment of collected thought. She promised to pray for me, that I would come to know God’s plan for my life, and, if that be in the order of priesthood, that I would serve as He desired me to.

Perhaps the most important thing she told all night was that she saw that I needed guidance. Guidance in the form of a spiritual director. That was the second time that evening that I’d heard that. Matthew too had spoken of how he saw that I was at a point where I needed one to continue to grow in my faith life. A prompting by the Spirit, perhaps?

Yet here I am now, long after that night and just starting college, ever searching. I can only hope to do everything in my power to find the one whom I need to aid me, and then trust in God’s time and plan. Because it was there on that last night – that dark and lonely, terribly yet wondrously powerful night – that I knew it was time.
Time to begin setting aside the younger, brasher, fellow that I was, and move ever onward.
Onward, towards the beginning.

TBC – 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

Nightfever: The Streets (External) – Abide Pt. 10

I returned to my small group pretty late, not fully myself.  We discussed what we’d heard, and then began… well… there are two sides to every story.  However, this is a bit different than the normal two sides.  This is me; everything I experienced, both inside and out.  These were the events of NightFever.

We were in the chapel, discussing what exactly was going to happen in simplest terms.  Seeking out those on the streets of Cincinnati and bringing them to join us in joyful adoration, however brief they desired.  To light a candle in prayer for themselves and all dear to them.

The golden sun shone on us as we rode the two buses to downtown Cincinnati, the doors of Saint Louis church having been opened to welcome us in.  Long had I desired to see within the walls, and now at last, I would.  We sang songs to the high heavens, even waving at those we drove by on the streets, I hoping that they would be touched by joy, however momentarily.  Some of the children even waved back, which was a pleasure to see.

The church was beautiful stillness, small and simple in design.  As all forty or so of us packed inside, I found myself looking around.  I remember the brown wood, the beautiful patterns etched in the marble walls, the cross hanging above the sanctuary.  I was tempted to sit near the back, but now was not the time for timidity.  I led my small group up to the front and to the right side of the aisle, eyes wide and trying to take in everything.

Now was the time.  The hour came, and we prayed that we would do what needed to be done, lifting our voices in a song to the heavens, that they would bless us in this time of need.  Then we were sent, journeying out to the streets.  My small group and Sister Rose along with us.  As we went, we prayed and sang our way together.  When we reached a certain crossroads, we split up: Ellen, Mariana, and Katie, with Sister; Pablo and I with DJ.

Making our way back to Washington Park, then along the less sketch streets, then near the main library.  DJ led us both in our route and our interactions with the people milling all about.  It was as simple as asking their name, inviting them, and… a prayer.  The Spirit was truly working, so many people were receptive to our praying with them, and even when I was stumbling, words that were definitely not my own came to me.  Christ within, speaking through each of us.  Power.  That was what we were given as we called on the name of Jesus

My spirits were so high, I remember, until… I saw him.  Robbie is his name.  A man who sought us out, asking whether we were part of the prayer group.  At first, I thought it would be a simple journey, just like all the others we’d invited, but… well…
I heard his story, and I was the one who led the prayer over him, asking for God to give him what he needed.  We walked back and brought him in, continuing to pray for him as he remained in adoration.  I thought it would end there, but then I felt… wrong.  Something to write about in the second half of this night, but I found myself unable to remain in the Eucharist’s presence for too long.

My friend saw me wandering about and offered to pray with me.  Praying for and being prayed over by people is easily the best experience that one can ask for, but that night I was distracting my friend, and I knew it.  I didn’t stick around long, not just because of that fact, but also because I felt a tug to leave and go outside.  I don’t normally feel confined in adoration, but this… this was one of those times.

I ended up going back and forth, inside and out, trying to greet those who came in, but my mind was ever in a chaotic state.  I tried, time and again to focus, to pray, but I couldn’t formulate anything authentic.  A blinding storm in my head.  Every few moments, vision blurred, I stared at the Blessed Sacrament, and perhaps I thought my mind would clear in those minutes, but… there was nothing.  If anything, the turmoil deepened further.  My spirit was heavy, and it remained so until I boarded the bus at the end of the night.

TBC – M