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.

Heart Unbound

Closure.  That’s the word.
As hard as some things are, it’s always more difficult without closure.

If one reaches an end and receives closure, it’s quite the gift.  Some would rather do without it, but in many cases in life,  I think it’s worth it.  It’s the lightening of the heart from a weight you never really realized was there to begin with.  That’s what the gift affords you.

I’ve lived nearly two decades, and I’ve made many mistakes, some of which I will forever wonder about, but just this once, I’m not left without a clear finish line.  A clean break on the path, as it were; another marker to reference and be sure of as the next move is made.

Oh, there is or was pain involved, most of which I made myself, but it is outweighed somehow.

How?

Here’s the thing:  I’m not someone who thinks of happenings relating to one’s life as coincidences;  I take it as the Spirit reaching out to me.  Well, as far as noticing the signs, I believe it’s the Father pointing them out and teaching me; when I actually move and take action, I reckon it’s the Spirit working.

Before I saw all these… promptings… I felt overwhelmed, filled with a storm of anger thoroughly unwarranted by the situation.  My mind was more of a mess of emotion, fueled by a sort of buried madness.  Anyone else’s brains ever start to go into overdrive, becoming a blur, at which point hardly any coherent thought comes through?  That’s where I was, often.  I’d lost my sense of focus, and it became apparent throughout the days as I tried to work on a number of projects.

~

Maybe it was an experience at Mass… no, it was.  I remember it.  The first sign.

Father’s homily was quite the kick in the face, but it didn’t start there.  That Sunday, I felt more attentive to praying the Mass than I had in quite a while.  Reminds me of a quote from St. Irenaeus, actually (though there is some debate on whether he said it exactly or not).

“The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God.” and that’s what I felt.  As if all my senses, hampered by worry – not just over this one failure on my part, but also a number of matters related to my schoolwork – were kicked up several notches and suddenly unburdened.  I was able to see and pay attention to everything, but not be distracted by it (which is how I normally am at Mass, unfortunately).  This time, I felt right at home, truly in communion.
So when it came time for the homily, a time when I tend to zone out because of how hard it is to hear Father from the altar (shh, don’t tell, I do try), I was so there.  Amazing how God speaks if you actually listen to/for His word *coughs*.

Father’s homily spoke of finding three things, well, finding two things and doing the last for both of them:
-A companion
-A teacher
-Giving them a break

For this, I’ll focus on the things that really hit me in relation to what was happening, which were the first and last items on that list (the second – I’m pretty sure – is a push to continue my hunt for spiritual direction).
I’d heard it before, but he made note of the fact that John the Baptist sent his disciples to Christ.  Good companions lead one another on a journey of growth, with Heaven as the high goal.  Further still, he noted how Christ gives us specific companions, and… because they were given to us by Him… we shouldn’t easily turn our backs on them.
In a finishing blow, Father turned to the subject of expectations of others, how they won’t always meet ours, and sweet glory, how we’ll never meet theirs, so for Heaven’s sake… Don’t.  Give up.  Based on that.

Now, I must confess, I ignored this push for a bit, and as another day or so passed, well… it was St. Mother Teresa’s turn to smack me across the face, as I scrolled the endless Instagram feed:
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person…”
Because that’s what I’d been waiting for.  Initiative from someone else, anyone else, so I wouldn’t have to move on my own.  Did I mention I’m a prideful person?  It was pride that was keeping me back from admitting my failure, unwilling to admit that I remained restless in guilt.  And so… in response to that, God made me see the caption underneath the St. Teresa photo, from Mother Angelica: “… start looking into your own life and attacking your pride in all of its many forms.”

So that’s two mothers smacking me upside the head.  A trinity of smacks to the cranium, if we add Father’s words.

~

Suffice it to say, I did what I felt was right, this time with surety that I don’t normally have.  And when it turned out the way it did, when it was over, I ran.  Not away, but to.
I ended up in adoration, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.  The chapel was mercifully empty, and there I stood before the tabernacle.

Those moments will forever remain locked within me, like a calm fire; not deadly or destructive in its ways, but comforting and warm.  It was my turn to make a promise.

And so with clarity, and to quote Venerable Fulton Sheen, I say: “Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.”

There, I admit it.  I have a heart, and it’s broken.  Don’t look at me all funny, I’m not made of stone.  However, the gaps are closing, and faster than I expected, to be honest.  Because right there, in the immediate aftermath, I can look back on what took place and see why God drew me back one last time: to right the wrongs, to fix what I had brought to ruin.  To leave this artwork at peace with it and move on.  Because it isn’t terrible, it isn’t faulty, it is… a beautiful ending.  And oftentimes, you’ll find that the most beautiful endings are the ones that cause the greatest pain.

So I’m beginning.  I am… me.  I do have an idea about where to go, placed in me during what I now consider another era altogether.  Who by?  The voice, the whisper that follows me beyond the bounds, guiding me forward.

Am I a good man?  Let’s find out.

-M

Striving Death

How many times do we consider death in a day?  How many moments come to us in which we consider that mystery, the gate through which we all must pass eventually?

I like to think I’m rather good at planning ahead, thinking about the big picture, the consequences of each act, of every chance where death could have claimed me that was denied.

Now, that might make me sound suicidal, but I think the man who has not considered death is very unwise indeed.  It’s all very well to live in the present, but to deny the reality of mortality is foolhardy indeed.

I choose life in all its greatness and its struggles, but there’s always that blade hanging high above, the Sword of Damocles as it were.  When shall it fall?

I have absolutely no idea.  No one ever does.  I’ve taken steps, or at least tried to, in case I do die before all matters are sorted out, but there’s always something that’s bound to be missed.  A relationship, a personal goal, etc.

We write our stories expecting to reach a conclusion of our own making, but life isn’t like that.  More often than not, the end of the chapters, the series, they come to us, quiet as a breath of wind.  To end it as we wish renders us… cowardly, diminished, and lacking.  To force the hand of the writer, to stop at the point one wants misses something beautiful: the epilogue.

A lot of stories have such unexpected conclusions to great sagas.  One reaches the last chapter – and in their mind, the conclusion – thinking it the end of all the greatness of the story, and then is pleasantly surprised at times by what many pass over as an afterthought.

“Oh, this story has had its time.” some might say, “Let it pass, for to add anything further would ruin it.  Drop the book now, before it’s spoiled by whatever last words the author wanted to add.”

Rarely however, in both stories and in lives, have I found an epilogue not worth reading, or seemingly so.

By such final moments, by gift of the Great Giver, by mercy itself… the story may yet reach what may be pictured as a vast and utterly beautiful library; its shelves lined with books beyond imagination that are each uniquely penned, and yet all are wonderful and delightful to the eye of He that brought them home.

– M

Chasing Perfection: A Brief Note

I’m going to make a bold claim, as an older brother ten years removed from my sibling, that it’s hard to relate to him.  Perhaps I have forgotten what it was like, being that age, and seeing the world in that different way, that mixed bag of extremes and simple, innocently testing fun.  Today, the reality was brought home that perhaps I still am very much like him after all.

See, it’s not often that I actually talk with my little brother, no, on the contrary, I half-heartedly listen at the best of times and ignore him at the worst.  There’s that to add to my list of faults.  I realize that interests change with time and age, yet if I could go back in time and look forward, I would be astounded at how little interest I now show in those little adventure books, in card games like Pokemon, or even in building with LEGOs.  Yeah, that last one is an actual problem.

So today (realize I began this the day of, but failed to see it through until now), after seeing him moping about on the couch for some odd reason (I assumed that he didn’t want to eat his lunch), I decided to talk to him to try and persuade him to get ready for an activity he had later.  As it turned out, he wasn’t sad for that reason at all.
No, what was causing distress was a picture he’d been drawing.  I believe the one in question was of a car, and he’d grown frustrated with a wheel’s roundness of all things.  Ah, if only the worst of my drawing problems was a lack of circular perfection!  He was beating himself up about it, burying his face in the pillows of our couch.  When I got to him at last, he was tearing up a bit, saying he’d never be as good as well… me.

It’s an oddly vicious cycle of comparison.  To compare to those we see as great is a balance, and I’m sure most would agree.  We tend to be partially inspired, and more often than not, discouraged!  Especially when we perceive a gap in what we have versus what they have.  So when I sat down next to him to tell him how I wasn’t the greatest by any stretch of the imagination, I could truly understand where he was coming from for once.  It was one of those situations where nothing is lost in translation, and one aspect that – unfortunately in certain senses – is not lost as we grow.

We lose heart when we realize that we either have a long way to go to reach what we perceive as great (which, by the way, might change to passable in our eyes when we actually get there), or simply think the task impossible.  One of those times where the word “never” comes to mind.

Is perfection subjective?  I don’t think so.  The word for that is perhaps the ideal.  What to us is the ideal, the standard by which we measure success?  I’m sure we can all think of answers to that.  The ideal picture of life… the life I can pretty much guarantee we won’t ever have.
Perfection on the other hand, is – I believe – objective, but there are many roads to that singular goal.  One only has to take the Saints.  So many unique travels, yet they came to that perfection which is holiness.  Unity with Christ.  Oh, to only truly long for such a thing.

However, to make the most and best of time on earth, I have some word of advice, and honestly, a bit of self-motivation at this point.

Don’t get lost in chasing an image.  Have an ideal, have a goal, sure, but don’t forget your own unique abilities.  While you may find a whole number of similarities between yourself and someone else, don’t try to become their carbon copy.  I know that’s easier said than done, but all we can do is our best, right?

It’s like my old gaffer said… no I’m just kidding, this awesomely hilarious priest said something similar is all.  To paraphrase for universality’s sake: “We are not called to be Saint Therese, or Saint Padre Pio, or Saint Josemaria Escriva, or – you get my point.
We are called to be Saint _____.”  So put your name there, sign that line (for those with longer names, I am so sorry that it’s a tiny line), make the commitment to strive for it.  It is beyond imperfect ideals, beyond the standards set by this flawed world.

I don’t say that to push you to sacrifice the pursuit of good and beautiful skills such as art, writing, leadership, a career, and all that.  No, not at all.  All I mean is that… there is more to our destinies than that.

So to return once more to the picture of my younger brother in distress over his artwork, we all have to start somewhere, right?  Should I have told him that this question of “can I ever be good enough?” would never leave him?  Did I perhaps give him false hope by encouraging him to move forward, and just draw and draw, over and over?  Should I have taught him that he would have to do the same with every step of his life’s journey?
Because you see it now, don’t you?  Life is the canvas, and we’re all artists.  And maybe we have some idea of where the line will fall, maybe we already have an idea of what we want to draw out… but we can never be sure until it’s truly on the page.

– M

P.S.  My bad, I did say it would be “brief” in the title.

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