The house of my sojourning.

There are some blogs that are just fun to read, and then there are blogs that are frekin so amazingly heart-felt that you can’t help but share it….and then there are blogs that you wonder whether that person is just writing about you because it’s way too alike your own thoughts, ponderings, loves, and doubts!!
This is the second time I am “reblogging” this particular Blogger named Grace. She is AMAZING because she has such a better way of describing so much of what I also have experienced. And she just turned 33. I turned 33. So, read this, and know that I am not just merely passing this along as a good read…..it’s actually so much of what I am feeling right now!! Enjoy her post, and pass it on: ….

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Bridging the Gaps in My Faith

…from a recent phone conversation…

Me: So what has your faith life been like recently?

Amy: Oh, I’ve been enjoying two churches, believe it or not!

Me: Really?

Amy: Yeah, I have really been enjoying [Church B] because the pastor does a great job at presenting the message, and I also enjoy all that they are offering.  I still go to [Church A] because I have been going there for so long, but I also just enjoying all that [Church B] has too!

Me: Wow, that’s really cool Amy!  In fact…it sounds exactly what I have been doing recently too.

I have been ecumenical and inter-religious ever since high school.  I have attended Christian groups, and some Christian services.  I am a Christian-Catholic, and unfortunately that’s a huge difference between Christians.  In college, I was the Public Relations Officer for the Muslim Student Association because they needed someone willing to do the communication, and I befriended a few Muslims.  I admired people in general who were willing to have passion behind their faith.

Passion dictates so much of what we do with our beliefs.  Those seeking out more from their faith are struck with a sense of passion.  Those involved with their faith community are energized with passion.  Read the poem at the end of this blog that further emphasizes this point.

eastside worship space

eastside worship space

Passion seems to seek us, and strikes, leaving us desiring more.  It struck me with my first attendance at Eastside Christian Church.  My housemates were already becoming regulars at Eastside.  I only heard about this church through them.  I never was able to go with them due to prior commitments.  Sometimes the commitment was to go to my own Catholic service while everyone else went to Eastside.  Then, one Saturday, as the group was about to leave, I just said, “Hey, I think I’ll join you.”

It was the music.  It was the professionalism.  It was the vibe of high energy and enthusiasm that the community gave off as you entered their worship space.  I was intrigued.  By my second visit, I was hooked.

Passion also can turn into fidelity that withstands the test of time.  This is not always the case.  I have been passionate about many things like USC football, or Angels baseball, but in the end, my passion was only as good as the team’s winning streak.  Yet, when passion was sustained for a long period of time, it then has loads of potential to become fidelity.

I have been passionate for my Christian-Catholic community for a very long time.  I got the love-bug for my Catholic faith when I was in high school.  It carried me through college, and even lead me to consider becoming a priest. (Read the blog post, “Not a Wasted Decision” to learn about my process of discernment in joining and leaving the priesthood path.)

I have shared with other Catholics about my current trend of attending two services a week for the last 3 weeks.  Some wonder if I am wavering in my Catholic faith.  I believe that’s a valid concern, but a concern I don’t have for myself.  I actually attend Catholic Mass almost every day, and have been doing so for the last 5 years.  I love so much of what the Catholic church offers…

But lately, even that hasn’t been enough.

Eastside is a well-run Christian community.  They have plenty of things to get involved in, and their services are just darn invigorating.  If praising God is supposed to be fun, don’t you think it would be invigorating too?

It is unfortunate that when I do attend a Catholic Mass, most of the time I find myself among the “walking dead.”  “Dead” meaning no passion.  Just enough energy to show up.  But I’m not sure if they know what it means to be in love with God.  I find myself singing love songs to God all by myself.  Imagine that!  Sing a love song about someone so loud, in public, and see if you don’t feel a little awkward.  That’s the same feeling I get singing at a Catholic Mass.  I have been yearning for more passion for a little while now.

Listening to my friend Amy speak about her own faith journey was comforting.  I bet there are plenty of us who are part of a couple of faith communities for the sake of trying to sustain the passion.

Passion.  We know when we have it, and we are certainly almost like another person without it.  I believe that my current church attendance at two different churches is more about sustaining my faith than changing it.

What about you?  What do you find lacking in your faith community?  How can you bridge the gaps you encounter?

“Nothing is more practical than finding God” by Pedro Arrupe, SJ

Nothing is more practical than finding God

That is, than falling in love in a quite absolute,

Final way.

What you are in love with,

What seizes your imagination,

will effect everything.

It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,

What you will do with your evenings,

How you will spend your weekends,

What you read,

Who you know,

What breaks your heart,

And what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love; stay in love, and it will

Decide everything.

Not a Wasted Decision

Gilbert and his Novitiate Spiritual Director, 2003

Gilbert and his Novitiate Spiritual Director, 2003

How funny things don’t always work out as you planned them to be; but there has been many gifts in all that I did not plan.

It was 10 years ago that I began my novitiate experience.  When I entered the novitiate, I thought nothing of it at first.  The novitiate is a place for a person to seriously take the next step towards becoming a “Religious,” that is someone who serves the Catholic church through a dedicated life of prayer, service, and who will live in community with other Religious.

I was told of my acceptance as a novice at a party only for Religious.  They were celebrating one of the Saints that founded their community, St. Ignatius of Loyola.  When I was told, I didn’t think I was going to be rejected, so I did lack surprise and even a little enthusiasm.  “Are you excited?” the Religious in charge of vocations asked me.  “Oh, sure!” I hastily replied, “I’m glad to start this next part of my journey.”  We looked at each other for a couple of moments, we smiled, and then parted ways.  I didn’t call anyone immediately.  Yet, I did tell people at the party, and they congratulated me.  My parents got the news when they came to pick me up.  “Wow,” and, “That’s wonderful,” were the main comments I remembered.  Everyone seemed happy, but as I said, I wasn’t overwhelmed with excitement.

I remember my enthusiasm shooting up as the week before I moved into the Novitiate began.  I had both happiness and nervousness.  I was sure I was doing the right thing for myself, renouncing any opportunity to be married in the future, but also knowing that the novitiate was still a trial time to really live out a Religious lifestyle so that in two years, I would make a proper discernment about whether to continue, or to do something other than the priesthood.

I remember also that very moment when my family and select friends said good-bye to me, and left the party that celebrated my moving-in day.  I remember watching them leave, and finally saying to myself, “Wow, this is it.”  Finally, I felt a sense of awe at the decision I had made.

It was only as I lived my first month at the novitiate that I started realizing how hard it was to live with men, be surround by men, and be constructively criticized by men.  I was well aware of the sacrifices needed to live such a lifestyle, but I didn’t know how much growth I needed in humility and courage to become a priest.

I definitely thought it was supposed to be a cakewalk if it was meant to be.

We were a group of six who entered in 2003.

We were a group of six who entered in 2003.

I wrote about all this as one of my first journal entries in a leather-bound book I finally used up.  It took 10 years to use all of it.  I had stopped journaling often since I was writing in other ways: lengthy email updates to friends and family, writing reflections about books, and even writing letters to friends I had made across the Nation.

That was August 30, 2003.  Since then, I have done many different things, and most of them not what I intended.  The biggest change in events was my departure from the novitiate after one year, and eventually joining l’Arche in a very full-fledged way.

But it has been helpful to remember my “Entrance Day.”  It reminds me of the hurt I went through most of my time at the novitiate, and how much I felt abandoned by God.  I remember the fantasies of love that started to plague me as if I was smitten with a curse.  I remember feeling lonely amid a community.

It’s after all that pain that now I see the truth.  I now understand that God never abandoned me, nor did God want me to ditch loving companionships with women.  But there is a difference between falling in love and having a respectful relationship, and objectifying love as if it was a “cure-all” to natural passions.  I was lonely because I was choosing to distance myself from others, not letting the other men help me nor allowing my experiences to help them.

I would not change the course of events of my past.  My prayer life has forever been affected with depth since my time in the novitiate.  I believe that it wasn’t so much that my idea of becoming a priest was not meant to be.  It’s more telling about the graciousness of God in allowing things to always work out for the better because I’m cared for.  Maybe I was supposed to try harder to be humble, or grow deeper in courage, yet I am now where I am because I have said yes to dancing with God.  Sometimes I wanted to lead the dance, but the best parts of the dance in my life have surely been when I decided HE could lead instead.

This Anniversary Marks Growth, Not Pain

L'Arche Foundation Logo
Forgiveness

To look forward, to want life, means we have to be willing to look backwards and become more conscious of all those who have hurt us, all that is broken in us and that has brought us inner deaths, hurts that we may have hidden and stifled. It means that we acknowledge the story of our origins, of our own lives, see and accept our brokenness and the times we also have hurt others. When we have accepted who we are and what we need in order to grow in compassion and peacemaking, we can move forward to give life. To forgive is a gift of God that permits us to let go of our past hurts.

Jean Vanier, Finding Peace, page 47-48
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About two years ago, I broke up with my fiancée.  It took a day of arguing, crying, yelling, loneliness, and confusion to really make the breakup final.  One day she was in my life as no one else was or had been; the next day she was out.  I was sad we couldn’t work things out, but relieved at my decision, and felt strong about sticking to the course.  Our relationship was toxic and I had to let myself go from her.

Today I am more mature and definitely happy.  But that quote I have added as a beginning to this reflection really dives into a point I don’t hear of often.  To get real results with forgiveness is not necessarily to go looking for a scenario where a person can obtain closure.  In fact, that’s downright selfish.  My idea of closure may be drastically different from my ex-fiancée’s idea of closure.

Instead of seeking closure from her, I sought answers within my own actions.  I sought to lay out all the wrongs I did against her both out of anger and naiveté.  Afterall, relationships are not one-way occurrences. If it was toxic, I had some part of making it toxic.  I sought counseling.  I read and reflected.  I prayed for myself.  I allowed myself to fall in love again, and get hurt; to start over again, and to be vulnerable again.

I prayed for her almost every day, and then every other day, and then after four or five months, I prayed for her on occasion.  I recognized that I was not helping the healing process for myself if I frequently reviewed my past with her.  I had to trust that she was being taken care of and being prayed for by others.

Remember Jean Vanier said to acknowledge our stories?  I’m acknowledging that even after a harsh break-up, and going to counseling, I still messed up with other brand new relationships. Yet, I have not quit believing that I can do better in my relationships, and especially in dating.  I have gotten back up, and take all events as learning experiences.

Forgiveness is coming to an acceptance of what is broken and letting go of regret or resentment.  Moving on does not meaning the brokenness is gone.  It means acknowledging our scars and walking forward with them, not shying away from our needs.  One of my major needs has been to be consistent in my prayer life, and attend prayer with a community, regardless if I feel I “get something out of it.”  The gift has been in the stability rather than in small moments of joy or peace, which do occur, but definitely not every time.

It really did take double the amount of time I was dating my ex-fiancée to move into a healthy mindset about my relationship with her.  I have not spoken to her for a very long time, nor do I intend do.  But if I did run into her, I pray that I would be nothing less than sincerely courteous to her and able to wish her well, without sounding condescending.

My prayer for you, the reader, is that you too will find quiet time to look into your past hurts and scars, and then with much hopeful resolve, ask God to open your heart to that gift of forgiveness so that you can be a light and companion to others as they wrestle with their own brokenness.

 

Recommended Book: Following Jesus

Following JesusFollowing Jesus by John Shea

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is deceivingly thin! But true wisdom does not need many words.

What you will find in this book is a manual for how to be a disciple of Jesus according to scripture. It has a broad subject, but John Shea narrows the concepts down to nine chapters, averaging 12 pages each.

This book was definitely amazing because it opened my mind to deeper understandings of Christian living. In many ways, that is a rare event because of all the theology I have soaked up for my Masters Degree I completed only a year since reading this book.

One example of insight was when John Shea brought up the story of the Good Samaritan, and asked readers to type out the story or write it down on a sheet of paper, and then keep it with them. The reader should re-read the story occasionally through the days and weeks, and hopefully the question, “How can I unconditionally love my neighbor in this instance,” will come up as a guiding principle in our speech and actions.

I never had anyone tell me to do that with scripture. Simple, yet profound!

The best part is that you do not have to be a theologian to read this book. The hard part is whether people will try to whiz through the material or prayerfully read it. I found myself doing both, but I went back and re-read any parts that I speedily devoured.

One more hard part is that although John does not write as an academic, his thought-process is very learned. Not everyone will easily digest his wisdom.

Here’s a quote to ponder on as well as to get a sense of his writing style.

“Spiritual knowing works like the physical heart. The heart…pumps blood throughout the body. After the pumped blood has circulated throughout the body, it returns to the heart to start the process all over again. Again and again, the heart gives life to the entire body. Our spiritual center…pumps life into the whole mind-body organism, renewing it over and over again. In order for the mind and will to stay filled with life, they have to return to the spiritual center and then go out from it again…. Spiritual knowing happens when we open to the flow of life in the center of our being and it enter and elevates our minds and wills.” -p.89 (Second printing edition, July 2010)

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I don’t wait anymore.

So, I will not regularly do this. BUT this post was written with lots of heart, and was well explained. If you read it too fast, you’ll miss some VERY important points about chastity, and dedication to God. Enjoy. May it make you ponder about your own relationship with God.

Even Soldiers Need Support

logo-ffpMemorial weekend 2013 I thought of my family members who have signed up to be part of the military.  I prayed for them and knew that their lives were drastically different than mine.

There is so much change in the life of a soldier like changing residences, training new soldiers, being supervised by several different individuals within a short time, and even more.

In particular there’s one area they all struggle with just like anyone else and that’s growth in the faith.  Keeping the faith active and challenging among all the many tasks required during the day is just plain hard.

So the need for something to engage faith, for someone to encourage and support faith is a need that is even harder to fulfill in the military.  One organization is trying to change that, and make it easier for faith resources to get into the hands of those who want them.

Frontline Faith Project has a great mission and vision.  In an environment where it is not easy to come by faith resources, Frontline Faith Project definitely is trying to seep into the busy lives of our soldiers, who are spiritually hungry just like the rest of us.in-memoriumI use my blog to promote great organizations and resources.  Please consider looking at this organization and passing on the word of its existence.

Frontline Faith Project – Spiritual food for a warrior’s soul.