Tag Archives: Death

Our Journey Will Have Death and Resurrection

I got the call on an early Monday morning.  “Hi, Gilbert, it’s Bob from L’Arche DC.”  My heart pumped rapidly, and I started getting shaky with my phone as if I was going to hear something tragic…or something exciting.

“We are welcoming you to come join us, but with one huge stipulation.  You see, we tried having you come as soon as you can, but we just don’t have any more rooms for anyone else right now.  So, if you do join us, it’s going to have to be in May.”

I felt relief.  It was over.  My wandering had reached a point of clarity.  I now had a date to start my new adventure with a fantastic organization and incredible people.  I sighed ever so deeply.

“I am happy to hear about this opportunity and I assure you, I have no problem with the date.”  And I replied with a huge grin on my face.

I’m sure they were hesitant about whether I would be accepting their offer.  Afterall, I had expressed my eagerness to join them as soon as possible, and that I was even laid off from my current ministry sooner than I thought.  I was definitely welcome to the idea of moving to the East Coast in the dead of winter if it meant having a stable income AND health insurance.

Yet, despite my pronounced eagerness, I had pondered over an important detail that kept my eagerness in check.  In fact, there was hardly any talk about it– it was a detail only mentioned once. They did not know that I had prepared myself on the spiritual, emotional, and mental level to accept the possibility of a late starting date rather than an immediate one.  They had mentioned that I may not be able to move in as soon as the summer of 2014.  Nonetheless, they only needed to mention that possibility once in order for me to consider it.

I had to do some inner work even prior to being prepared to accepting a later start date.  I had shared with you all that I was frustrated wandering, and that I was so very ready to do something that would lead to a more settled life.  (Read my blog post on “Wandering”.)  I had to allow myself to be very upset at God, to be very upset at myself for not fulfilling my own expectations, and to just sorrow over all of it.

But as much as I kept posing the question to God, “What do you specifically want me to do,” I also tried to be positive about my situation by counting all the blessings I did have: awesome friends, an amazing family, living in one of most beautiful parts of the world, and having enough money to not ever worry about my basic necessities.  I let myself sorrow, but only during prayer times.  It was a psychological method I had randomly read about, that healthy people will allow themselves to feel their depth of grief, loss, frustration, anger, and any other negative emotions, and then they will commit to feeling content and resolute in their purpose of being the rest of the day.  If anyone would be willing to listen to me complain and rant, it would be God.  God could handle anything, and so I decided to let God have it: my tears, my shaking of my fist, my thoughts of being destructive to myself or to items that I used for worship.  Yes, I did imagine myself throwing my bible across the church, or ripping apart my rosary beads, and yelling at the top of my lungs, “Why are you forsaking me!! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT ME TO DO!”  But all this was in my head; I never felt the need to act out such fantasies.

I remember these times also bringing a sense of enlightenment.  I remember sometimes walking away from my prayer and feeling content…a deep peace.  I never received a voice in my head; just a feeling that I was going to be ok.  Alas, I did not have my anger and frustration wiped away.  I would start feeling upset about my lack of career path, lack of choices, and feel negative about my life after a couple of days, sometimes the very next day.

Yet, I was being mystically consoled.  Meaning, I didn’t feel good about venting my frustration, but I felt ok.  I felt strength in continuing to do the only thing that was the best thing to do: place one foot in front of the other.  And to do that 100 times, 500 times, then  1,000 times until I reached my destination.  Thank you, Lao Tzu for that wise saying.

I mentioned in my blog post “Wandering” that my listlessness meant I had no clue when I was going to stop feeling nomadic about my life.  I felt solidarity with the Hebrew people who were in an exodus state for such a long time, and their story recounts all the vocalized frustrations they had with God.  I suddenly felt more pity for them than for God, because I knew how bad it meant to me to have some sort of timeline, and I could not imagine walking around for an unstated period.  I would have joined them in their complaints, and would have told Moses, “This sucks, man!  Let’s just go back to Egypt, cause at least we know how to get there and how long that would take!”

I just wanted a timeline of when my wandering would stop.  “Please, God, is that too much to ask?”  And then I got it.

As you might have guessed from reading the beginning of this post, I called an organization called L’Arche Washington DC.  I knew I would love to work for them, and in that initial conversation the recruiter mentioned a significant fact, “Yeah, we love accepting new people and I hear what you are saying and I know what you are looking for.  But I do want to mention that it’s more probable for you to find a placement with us in the summer time than finding one now in the winter time.  We do have one or two spots to fill, but I just can’t guarantee you that you would get one of them this month.”

Those may have not been exactly the recruiter’s words, but they held the utmost important fact that I needed to embrace: I may not be able to join them until summer time.  To this very day I still remember those words being spoken, and my heart had a sinking feeling.  I was tired of wandering and I wanted to do something incredibly meaningful RIGHT.  NOW.  Yet, because I had been pleading with God for awhile to give me a timeline, I felt this was a nudge in my gut that the possibility of my acceptance in the summer of 2014 wasn’t just a possibility, but an answer God gave me;  after all, it was a timeline.   Not as soon as I was hoping for, and yet, it was still sooner than 40 years.  I was being given more compassion than the Hebrews had obtained.

So when it came to hearing the first week of January that I was welcomed to begin in May,  I wasn’t disappointed.  I was relieved that I didn’t have to wait anymore.  I had a timeline to work with, and I was already hustling for jobs and making enough money to live and have some fun.  I was excited to announce to my family and friends WHEN I was destined to live somewhere new, and do what I love.

I had to die to the idea that a timeline was going to follow my ideal timeline.  I had to surrender to the God that took care of me at every moment of my life, and stop doubting that I was going to be left behind.  In my surrender, I gain so much more life.  I had stopped being angry during my prayer because I felt I did have purpose: to be the best of myself for the sake of others: to be incredibly friendly, wonderfully kind, somewhat goofy, and at all times be of a spiritual mind.

This is how God wants it: to be resolute in my faith so that I might inspire others, and to enjoy the love given to me so that I might be able to make time to love and serve others even when it’s inconvenient to do so.

We are all promised to experience death and resurrection in our journey.  But I don’t believe it has to only mean physical death, but it also includes inner death to expectations that frustrate us.  Resurrection does not have to be a promise we wait for, but in fact it’s what God wants us to live out RIGHT.  NOW.  If we’ll just trust Him.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The second reflection on this is about what Resurrection looks like.  I will write that post 2 months, if not 7 months from now.

George, my friend, Rest in Peace

easter Here’s the Eulogy I did for my friend.  I was blessed to serve him and learn from him.

George was born on June 12, 1922, and was the 10th child of eleven kids.  He was 91 when he died.  He leaves 12 direct nephews and nieces, and 66 second nephews and nieces.  He and Bernice were married 47 years.  This is no surprise because, after all, it was love at first sight for both of them.  She was a nurse when he met her, and he decided to kiss her after only chatting with her for a couple of hours.  Two months later he married her.

He was born in California, and it sounds like many of the nieces and nephews have fond memories of visiting George at his place in Malibu.  Everyone knew George as someone who loved making and giving away trinkets.  He never did stop doing this, since so many children who attend St. Norbert’s school were blessed to get 2 trinkets or 20 of them throughout the year.bday4

George was definitely famous in his own right.  Bernice told me he appeared frequently on PBS with the Boy Scouts, showcasing interesting craft projects.  George taught a few classes at Orange Coast Community College.  He and Bernice were even a part of the founding board of directors for Cal State LA.

It was commonly thought that George was going to become a priest.  He was always very religious and was known to many as our “local John the Baptist.”  He used to go to Mass every day, and there was one time recently when he walked to church from his home only using his walker.  He had his first scooter stolen, but this did not deter him from accomplishing what he set out to do.

George never wanted to shy away from conversations that dealt with politics or religion.  He always promoted Christian Unity, and encouraged people to go to other Christian churches not for the sake of converting others to be Catholic, but to show others that we support them and love them.   In fact, he claims to have helped put up the Missionary Cross in this church, which is found opposite side of the altar, over the baptismal font.  He reminded priests and parishoners alike that it was at the moment of our baptism that we were also being called to be Missionaries for Christ.  George was also inter-religious and I finally went to visit and pray at a local mosque during Ramadan with him.  He never wanted to stop hosting these “missionary events,” and I thank St. Norbert’s bulletin editor Jo-an as well as Fr. Pat for allowing George to keep placing announcements in the bulletin, regardless if any one showed up.georgescooter2

George was always very generous.  He and Bernice actually gave away an RV to a homeless family one time, and had let some people live with them whether it was a single mother and her children, or a homeless man who needed some shelter during the winter.

Bernice always said, “well, if you ever need a place to stay, we have a spare room, and I think George could use some male companionship.”  Bernice mentioned this almost every time I visited, and I silently pondered the thought.  Little did I know that  five years later, I would actually live with George.

I only lived with him for a short time, from February until the end of June of this year.  Within that time I learned so much more about caring for another person.

I learned that it was more important to have George live as long as he could in his own home, and stick to his old ways, than to place him elsewhere or be upset at him for his bad habits.  I learned that George required me to love him in that unconditional, inconvenient way.  It was inconvenient to take George to Mass because I had to give extra time, or show up late to Mass.  It was inconvenient to do shopping with George.  I couldn’t just go and grab the items he need.  Quite often he wanted to do it.  And also grab a couple of other items not on the shopping list.

I started to realize that real love is often inconvenient.  Accepting the inconvenience helped me die to my Self.  Will I have enough patience?  Will I give him my attention or time only when I feel like it?  In the end, to be someone’s companion meant that I needed to be there as much as I could, until I reached a point of some uncomfortability.  Then I was loving George.

Thanks, George, for all the things you’ve done for us.  Thank you for being a missionary for the rest of us.  Pray for us that we will take your place and seek to be better Christians, thoughtful of children, and determined to make a better society, even if it’s inconvenient.donuts

Week of the Darkness versus the Light: Death

In honor of this week of Halloween, and remembering the departed, I will post about themes that deal with the battle of darkness versus light.  This post’s theme: death.

What I always find deeply ironic is how many Christians I know are afraid of death, or feel sorry for someone who has died.  Yet, there is a firm belief in Heaven.  So what gives?

Photo Credit: Wallpaper 4 God

There is a deep attachment to our world that is not conducive to what Christians have faith in.  Why would any Christian be worried about another Christian who has died?  The only good reason to be worried is the answer to this question:  will a person be granted access to Heaven, or has the person done unspeakable things and will go to hell for it?  This question is reason enough for worry, nonetheless, I don’t run into people who are concerned with it.  The concern about the dead tends to be placed about the tragedy over someone not living any longer, or the fact that we have to now live without the person.

These thoughts are not Christian.  What is Christian is the certitude that there is an afterlife.  It is Christian to hope that God’s mercy is deeper than anything we can imagine, and therefore, a soul does have a real chance of getting into heaven.  To help that soul reach it’s destination, we pray for the soul.

I am not arguing against sorrow and mourning.  In fact, I have seen how people have not properly recognized the importance of grieving.  I have noticed when people are not sympathetic enough.  They don’t offer consolation, but instead, empty statements.  “It’s okay, it was her time to go.”  “God works in mysterious ways.”  “Don’t cry, everything will be ok.”  Statements are not what people need in their time of distress.  Presence, listening, and crying along with someone are some of the supports people need.

This simple reflection on death is more about recognizing how we understand it when we are not in distress.  Why would a Christian think it is sad for someone to pass on into the afterlife?  Is not the Christian message to the world that it is not trapped in a meaningless life cycle, but that we are given an opportunity to enter the Kingdom of Heaven through Christ?

Since there is an afterlife, Catholic theology promotes praying for those that have passed on as well as asking those who might be or certainly are in Heaven for help.  That only makes sense if we can communicate with the dead.  No, you don’t need to have supernatural powers or bust out magic to start talking to the dead.  Prayer is already that special way to connect with those that have transitioned from this physical reality to the spiritual.  It is that simple.  Just don’t believe your going to get any concrete communication back…after all, it would freak you out.

St. Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians, “O Death, where is your sting?”(1Cor 15:55)  In the letter to the Romans, he goes on to further explain this crucial soteriology (theory of salvation; Rom 6).  Christians do not need to fear death or be saddened by it.  It’s natural to feel that way, but alas, there is much to hope for!

Go, and celebrate with others this Good News: humanity no longer is a victim of death; death has been conquered, and we have the opportunity to make it a transitional event versus a final event of our life.

God our Father,
Your power brings us to birth,
Your providence guides our lives,
and by Your command we return to dust.

Lord, those who die still live in Your presence,
their lives change but do not end.
I pray in hope for my family,
relatives and friends,
and for all the dead known to You alone.

In company with Christ,
Who died and now lives,
may they rejoice in Your kingdom,
where all our tears are wiped away.
Unite us together again in one family,
to sing Your praise forever and ever.

Amen.