Guiding Force – Father (Pt. 2)

My father.  A good man.
I hope he’s proud of what he sees in me.  The best in me – after all – comes from my both my parents, and I must attribute that quieter, more contemplative side I have, to my father.

What could I possibly say on a day like this, celebrating the man who raised me from when I was but a wee babby?  It’s a curious question, and one I’m just going to have to go for, seeing where thoughts take me.  Consider this my stream of consciousness henceforth.

I remember clambering atop this ropes course, back in 2012, looking down from the great heights, swinging precariously between two horizontal beams: a section of the giant’s ladder at Camp Friedlander.  Vaguely I heard my dad encouraging me, praising the speed with which I had achieved the last gap, and telling me to continue that same swiftness to gain the peak.  Well, that kept me invigorated, even when my legs felt leaden as I tried to lift them, straddle the beam, and spin upward.

I liken that to the everyday encouragement I receive from him, if regarding less physically taxing actions.  He’s seen me through the best of times, and the worst of times.  I remember not even a year ago, feeling discouraged during my driving practice sessions, and how he would wave aside the many mistakes I made (which could have injured either of us, truth be told), simply telling me to continue until I got it.  He has a very forward looking mentality, that, while not confined to the future, keeps that endgame in mind.

My Eagle Scout, my Freedom Award, my Religious Emblem, my Black Belt, my joining the P&G Resident Scholar Program, my going to Cincinnati State, my being a part of St. Gertrude HSYM.  With many “my’s”, sometimes I forget the source, the man who pushed me on towards them and kept me moving to achieve all these different life’s adventures.
Everything that he has done is truly for my embetterment, and my debt of gratitude to him is greater than I could possibly imagine.

I remember this one other specific time where we had perhaps the most difficult heart to heart ever (and yeah, my eyes are kind of tearing up as I remember it), and as we talked, there was that ever present fear that he would explode at me, but instead he just listened, and when I had finished, he spoke, showing great compassion, mercy, all things loving unto me.  I felt unworthy of it, that’s for sure, but he was there for me during that trial.  His contribution to that healing process was instrumental, and without him, I doubt I could have made it.

There are plenty of hurts and joys I talk with him about now, but that really was the catalyst, the beginning.  From great pain came a chance for greater closeness.  I always felt more like a stranger to my father before that point, and now I get to look back and realize how much changed on that dark night.

He was there for me from the beginning, and without him, the man I am today could never be.  I may not think myself a good man on most occasions, but whatever good virtues there are in me came from him and my mother, which obviously were gifted them by God Himself.

I fear a lot of times that I miss a lot of opportunities with him, either by exhaustion that puts me to sleep in the car while he’s driving, sacrificing that extra sleep so that I can get to school or work rested enough to make it through the day; the times I’m just sitting, frozen in front of my computer screen, my attention occupied by some cool new trailer or tv show; or just when I’m off doing my own thing in college or wherever.

I never meant for this to turn out so somber, but really, it is a grim reality that one day I will have to face everything without my father, the man who first taught me what it even meant to be a man; the one who taught me a respect for others, especially women; the man who taught me to love the outdoors, the thrill of adventure; the man who taught me to cherish every moment, every opportunity that comes my way, keeping those doors open and standing ready; the man who taught me to lead by example by his example; the man who has prepared and still is preparing me to fulfill my purpose: live life, and live it abundantly.

Thanks, Dad.  And Happy Father’s Day.

-M

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

The Power Within – Mother (Pt. 1)

So… it’s Mother’s Day.  Or it will be tomorrow.  I’m kind of on a deadline here as far as getting this post done in time, so I realize I’m probably sacrificing a lot of depth.  Ah well.  As I sit here, writing to try and get my thoughts flowing, I’m reaching for a structured spontaneity, which is quite possibly an oxymoron, depending on how you leap about.

For this post, it’s kind of more a tribute sort of thing, to be made annual, because that’s kind of the deal with such days.  The year comes and goes and suddenly, hey, whaddya know, it has been your regularly scheduled trip around the sun, welcome back to the same date, a year later though, obviously.  Unless you’re a time traveler, in which case,  I am sorry, so so sorry.  Get out of that time loop, mate, and live a little.

Anyway, moving past that little sidebar, the thing we have to remember of course is that our parents, both mother and father, are always around, no matter the day.  So I shan’t begrudge one day (which honestly seems a little too little for celebrating such a big part of my life) to them, right mates?  Let’s actually kick this off with talking about both of the greatest mothers in my life.  The first is Mary, Mother of God, our mother; the second, my own mother, or, as we call her, “Mom”.  Heh, couldn’t resist.

Firstly, Mary.  When I think of Mary, the first thing that usually comes to mind is this very calming gaze, that sort of cuts one to the heart.  The eyes have it, an understanding of my pains and struggles, they see it, and yet they love despite it all.  The second thing is a warm embrace, burying my face in the folds of blue, a powerful ocean sweeping me into a greater reality.  A reality that I am loved, that I have… family.  Ad Jesum Per Mariam.  That’s the thing that drives me onward.  That truth that Christ can be reached through His own Mother, my mother.

I have a sort of… odd thing I do.  Whenever I see a statue of Mary, I think of her, and I wave rather vigorously.  I like to believe that I speak with her rather often, and that she’s amused by my childlike antics.  Whenever I pass the statue at my church(es), the various artworks I see on occasion, and especially The Steps, Immaculata.  Every time we pass by on the bridge between Ohio and Kentucky, I’ll stare across the way, saying a simple “Hello, Mary!” in greeting.  My tradition, my own way of showing I’m thankful for her presence in my life.  Because I’ve had a lot of trying times in which I felt isolated, but in asking for her intercession, I found some new resolve to strive onward, to never give up, to never give in.  She is an inspiring figure, and I am honored to be under her protection.

In the same vein, my earthly mother offers a different protection.  Many the days where I came to her simply to talk and discuss the various areas in my life where troubles had arisen.  Everyone needs a confidante, and she’s one of my main go-tos.  Why go to my mother?  Well, as a commuting college kid, I have time at home outside of school.  I get to know my family a bit better, planted as I am.  Might sound awful, but it really helps to have that kind of separation sometimes.  Two worlds divided, the school and the home.  I didn’t write this to talk about school though, I wanted to… shed some light on my mother’s wonderful awesomeness.

She’s an early riser, not by choice, but because she prepares us men of the house food for both breakfast and packed lunch, and makes sure we’ve got enough to survive before heading back to sleep.  Her prayer life is inspiring, because she really dedicates herself to the Liturgy of the Hours on a daily basis, in between the madness that is keeping the house in order and the rest of the family happy.  As my father says, “Happy wife, happy life.”  Really, it’s her who is often holding us all together.  When we all have our issues, she’s always the one calling us back to prayer, back to God.

I rarely appreciate it in my darker moods, but I need to hear that.  I need to hear that there is a better way than the one I’ve chosen.  Someone to hold me to the mark, and yet support me in those times where I am wrestling.  That’s why she’s my confidante.  She shares her wisdom, doesn’t mind too much when I go on a bunch of threads related to girls in my life, and just all around always seems to have the right words to say to me, to get my head back in the game.

So of course my power comes from both of them.  It’s not a weakness to be close to one’s mother, it’s probably one of your greatest assets.  Through turmoil and triumph, through love and loss, through the violence unto victory, my mother gives me and all the rest of my family strength.  And so today, in light of all our mothers do, say at least a quick thank you, give them a hug, give them chocolates or something, I dunno.  It’s a chance to show our appreciation for their part in our lives.

-M

P.S.  Apologies for this not really having my usual head and heart in it, but it’s been a busy weekend 😛

Veilstruck

I was walking through the Cathedral, my eyes directed at the distant ceiling, the sounds of the congregation in the background of my mind.  I was lost in what one might term awestruck wonder, the kind that I hope to never lose.  I was there, focused on what I saw, and I began to think in rather odd terms:  Beauty… and the Beast.  You look at that and probably think, “What in the world?”

Sorry, sort of, I just go off on weird trains of thought that require much reining in, otherwise I end up further than one might expect.  No, the words came to mind because of the Church.  I am a visual creature, most men are, and I was drawn in, captivated in so many ways by what I saw.  Bound by a love for the richness of art and design, I would be very hard pressed not to see something worthy of some sense of pause, some rich moment in which I give my utmost attention to the sight that fills my vision.

This is why I say Beauty… and the Beast.  Because I am a beast, an odd creature most never quite grow accustomed to, random and tangential as I am at the strangest of times, in the least ideal environments.  I am grim in the face of happiness, and full of laughter in the somber night.  I am in opposition to what should be, yet I cannot escape my own nature.  A nature which looks on, and watches, and remembers.

The beauty of the Church of course, while in one sense may refer to the physical building, on a deeper level refers to the people that are the Church.  I think I’ve said before, that when I see something or someone beautiful, it’s very hard not to have a song spring to mind.  Well there was a tune in my head again as I paced under the great ceiling, a song of rejoicing, of praise for the wonders of the Lord.

Beauty draws us in, we know this, on so many different levels.  I might see the beauty of a woman, and in that moment, have a choice:  To rejoice in its goodness, in her purpose so to speak of being a sign of God’s boundless love for us; or to twist it and capture it as my own, selfish in my grasping that which is not mine.  Each time I encounter that choice, I think it is at its most dangerous when I forget that I have a choice in that instant.  To see it as it was meant to be seen, for what it was intended, is something that I hope to always remember.

Speaking of remembering, the spring semester is over, it has been since Monday’s end for me.  I confess, I had this sense of loss associated with the experience.  Now, I might be glad that it’s over for a while, but there is that nagging feeling of a loss of purpose.  I had something driving me, pushing me on with each passing moment.  Perhaps that’s why I’ll appreciate work so much when it comes for me shortly.  My skills will have their place, and I will remove myself from my wandering ways once more.

You see, I’ve had this dream that has captured me, to go out into the world, across the seas, and take the adventure that is given me.  My purpose will be to walk where the great Saints walked, to tread on the ground where the great Marian apparitions occurred, perhaps meet with the order that was started by my Confirmation namesake, the Benedictines of Monte Cassino.  Perhaps you’ve heard me say this before?  It wouldn’t surprise me; I don’t think I ever really change, deep down.  I’ve grown in some ways, both inside and out, but my spirit is as restless as ever.

A conundrum if you like, when I flit from one thing to the next.  The grass may seem greener on the other side, but when I step onto it, it becomes the burden that I wish to escape.  The thing is, true beauty is never something I wish to leave.  It leads to a healing of the heart, when we immerse ourselves in it, surround ourselves with it.  As my parish priest says, “We are called to worship in beauty.”  It draws us deeper, pulls us in and out, paradoxically.  Inward because we become more aware of ourselves in light of it, and outward, because it begs… wonder.

Now, the question then becomes, if beauty is so wondrous, and it leads to a healing of the heart by its effects, where then do we find this true beauty?  We lead very ordinary lives, day in, day out.  We reap the fruits that we sow, we chase the things that can be seen, and oftentimes we forsake the ability to pause and reflect in and on the moment.  It’s simply impossible to fully leave the world and live in the heart of the Church, unless you go with say, a contemplative religious order, and love the Lord in that way.

No, for us, the ordinary folk, finding that true beauty is in many ways, a more difficult path.  A divided call.  Come now, it can’t just be me?  I feel as if the parts of life stand opposed, separated.  I’ve managed to bring parts of my faith into my secular life that bridge the gap, such as the Liturgy of the Hours, and those fantastic Catholic individuals I’ve surrounded myself with as often as I can, but there will always be a part that’s lacking, that full integration and optimization if you will.

One of my favorite priests said that if there is something unsatisfactory, something in our current lives that we know should be to give us the best good, then we should take steps to change our situation, and – God-willing – we will find that good, whatever it may be.  You see, that’s the bit that tends to get me, this constant pursuit.  I suppose I’m a product of the culture, or perhaps it’s just my own laziness talking here, but I like it when things are given to me with little effort on my part.  I want to be fit or strong or able to defend myself better, but I dislike most times going out of my way to say, exercise or practice martial arts.  I want to finish my story, but every time I hit a block, I barely attempt to push past into a new territory of thought anymore.  It becomes a struggle to write even one or two sentences, and it’s slow progress, and I’m almost at the point of dropping it for a while.

Those examples are small things, relatively speaking, so now take the constant hunt for truth, beauty, and goodness that haunts my every waking moment.  I need and want it, but only on my terms, my way.  The minimal effort, so to speak.  I began this post in what I think are much more hopeful terms (keep in mind, that this was written over several days), but I appear to have tailed off into what we here in my head like to call utter “doom and gloom” mode.  Oh, perhaps the rain is affecting my mood.

The point – if you read nothing else, and skipped to the end bit – is that life is a pursuit.  It is difficult, it is messy, we slack off for quite a bit of it, and we will not find the fullness of beauty while still on earth.  Still, we have been given everything already, by our loving God.  Imagine a box of LEGOs that’s handed to you.  The best part oftentimes becomes the sorting through the pieces and building the creation.  That’s what life is, I think, that continual hunt for the correct LEGO pieces.  We might spend a while hunting for that right one; we might lose a few (don’t worry, there are extras for that); but in the end, so long as we keep at it, there is every possibility that we will have that wondrous masterpiece of a set.

So today, if one would say a prayer and – I would ask – take a look at our own pursuits of beauty, the efforts we take to seek God, and just ask Him for that “desire to desire”, then we may move forward.  I think it fitting, as we drop off into “summer bliss” and a state of perhaps slacking off a little (which is fine if done in moderation), that we do so with some sense of purpose, leaving threads to pick up once more when we realize it’s time to go on.  On towards summer.

– 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.

“YCatholic” Or “The Journey”

Here begins my posting of old works left unpublished for… varying reasons.  Some thoughts were just unfinished, and I was loathe to put them out in their (more) unfinished form.  As such, this is me, mostly from a year ago.

~

In recent days, I’ve been asked: “Why are you Catholic?”  After much deliberation, here goes.

I find, in my ongoing journey in the Catholic Faith, that there is:

-Truth
At the end of the day, whether we want to admit it or not, we’re looking for something true.  Truth fulfills this desire within us.  It’s a powerful thing.  The truth of the matter is, I find answers to the occasional question I might have about my faith.  Trust but verify, right?  Sometimes I’ll ask why, questioning a teaching or even just looking for the reason behind why some occurrence takes place.  There’s a significance and order behind the universe.  It’s not some randomly pieced together thing.  As for God’s existence, I’m willing to take the bet that He’s real.  It was quite eloquently put in a book I read some time ago.  If the atheist is right, and God is fake and oblivion is real, then no matter what we do on earth – good or evil, we all go to the inevitable oblivion.  However, on the off-chance that I’m right, and God, Heaven, and hell are real, then… well… Are you willing to stake eternity on His nonexistence?

– Glory
Now, when I say glory, I don’t mean for myself, by myself.  I mean glory for the Church as a whole.  I’m not – nor should I be – looking to glorify myself.  I’m looking to be great through the efforts of the Church, that my fellow brothers and sisters, as well as myself, may one day stand at God’s side in Heaven as saints.  That’s my end goal.  That’s the glory I desire.  All this will pass away, whether we like it or not.  So we must aim for Heaven.  I’m not exactly uppity about the idea of going to hell, so let’s aim for glory, eh?

– Unity
Time and time again, I find myself seeking my Catholic friends.  My community, seeking Heaven’s merits, striving forward together even when darkness pulls us down.  And sure, we may sometimes be at odds as far as our personalities are concerned, but at the end, we have that binding tie of knowing that we are children of God.

– Hope
Never has any other community ever given me such hope as the Church has.  It’s hard to describe, but every time I find myself before the Blessed Sacrament, or surrounded by my brothers & sisters, I am filled with a hope for the future.

– Courage
Beyond giving one a purpose in life, something a few believe it’s all religion is good for, it also gives one courage.  The Church does more than hand you a stack of rules and say: “Follow these!” It also, blesses you with strength to proclaim the greatness of the Lord.  “Why would we do that?” you might ask, “God doesn’t need us to do anything on His behalf if He’s all powerful.”  No, He definitely does not need us, but we need Him.  We owe it to Him to show His love through our lives, and so He gives us courage in the face of adversity, as a father encourages and teaches a son to stand ready.  To rise.

 

*

– Freedom
To further that note, for perhaps I fail to explain it well, these rules that we’ve been given are – now that I know better – the roads by which our freedom is unlocked.  Freedom… for excellence.  As the athlete, by following the rules, is able to play the game and play it well; as the pianist, by learning the proper notes, is able to produce the desired song;  so we by obeying the Church’s teachings – teachings ordered toward our good and happiness – may experience true freedom.  I never regret not sinning, believe me.

– Love
And finally, the one that perhaps encompasses all the rest.  All these previous things have been given me by a loving God.  A God who is not a taskmaster, not malevolent or unjust, no, He is Love itself: perfect in all of His ways.  Perhaps I made the mistake of saying last year that I bet on His existence.  Let’s cast that aside, betting.  I don’t have to gamble with His reality.  I know Him, I’ve seen His works in my life, heh, in fact, I’ve seen Him.  Every time I go to Mass, or Adoration, I have seen Him.  Present, powerful.
What  is love?  Age old question, right?  Love is willing the good of the other.  We, who have had our wills corrupted by sin, have imperfect love.  God, in His perfection, is able to will the greatest good for us, to love us completely.  This is why we say He is Good, because, he is goodness in its fullness.  He brings everything to perfection within Himself.
That’s not to say that I’ve only received love from Catholics and no one else, but there is something key there, in our acknowledgement that Love comes from the Father.  We are loved by others because… God loved us first.  He continues to work through us and our imperfections, and by drawing us in, He brings us to perfection within Himself.

I could go on for quite a bit, but then I’m sure I would lose whatever final shreds of coherence I might have had, if any.  I’m still learning, both in terms of the teachings and expressing them.  The beauty is that one can never truly say it all.  There’s always something left to be discovered, to be shared by someone that God chose to speak through in a very specific way to touch a very specific someone.
The particularity of love, pushing us to a great beyond.

That’s probably what being Catholic is for me.  This joyful view of life, even in the midst of trial after trial.  It is the promise that at the end of the road, there lies a happiness that cannot be taken away.  Despite that, it doesn’t mean that life is a hellhole by any means; it’s a chance to move upward, steadily climbing the mountain to reach the peak.  And when we stand atop the heights, we’ll know it was all worth it.

-M

*Anything following the uh, star mark or whatever “*” is (asterisk?), denotes writings that are actually present day me, as opposed to early 2016 me.  Surprisingly, it does make a difference.

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