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An Itinerant Vacation

Long trip with a lot of great stops along the way!

Long trip with a lot of great stops along the way!

Home at last and back to normal. For now! My hiatus from posting last week was less than desired but not without excuse: five midterms in a week and a half kept me very busy and very tired. Such work is not without reward though, as I’ve spent the last five days on spring break. How does a friar spend spring break, you ask? Itinerantly.

Spending five nights in five different places, I made my rounds in what ended up being a great blend of business and pleasure. Starting in Lancaster, PA (the place where I grew up), I gave two talks at my cousin’s confirmation retreat, sharing about my life in the Church and how the Holy Spirit has guided me in my vocation. From there is was off to the Philadelphia suburbs to spend three nights in three different homes, catching up with family members I have otherwise been unable to see since starting formation. Finally, I finished the trip with a quick visit to our soup kitchen in Philadelphia and the night at our parish in Camden, New Jersey.

Besides being utterly exhausted (so much so that the first thing I did when I made it back to DC was to take a nap), I have to say that it was a great trip with a surprising amount of reflection to be had.

The first point of reflection is about itinerancy. Spending five nights in five beds is both a challenge and a joy. Living out of a suitcase requires one to live much more simply than normal, going without anything that isn’t a necessity. Entering into another’s home, even when treated extraordinarily well, is still an invasion of another’s space: you’re never 100% comfortable because it’s not your fridge, bathroom, bed, television, etc. that you’re using. It requires a lot of flexibility, and with such little time at each place, a lot of energy for each individual person and always feeling like you’re “on”.

For some of us as friars, itinerancy in this form will be a way of life. The Ministry of the Word, as mentioned a few years ago, is a form of ministry in which friars go from parish to parish, preaching at the masses and holding parish missions during the week. Some of our friars can do upwards of twenty or thirty of these per year, spending a lot of time on the road with new people. There are many aspects of this that are appealing to me.

For the rest of the friars, even though we don’t move from house to house that often, there is still a sense with the way we live that we are using, not owning, the things around us. When we know that we will be transferred in 3, 6, or 9 years, we are reminded that someone will be using the things we have shortly after we’re done with them, and that while we have something today, it may not be ours tomorrow.

The second point of reflection I had on this trip, and arguably the more important one, was the experiences I had speaking with relatives and friends about the Church. I come from a very large Catholic family, and like many in the northeast (and western world), many of them have encountered their fair share of struggles within and outside of the church. Having now spent two and a half years in the friars, and spending much of my day in class or indirectly focused on the theological issues of the times, it was a critical opportunity for my own ministerial development to spend time with regular people with varying degrees of affiliation with the Church.

Don’t get me wrong: I have plenty of opportunities to talk about the Church and to be with regular people throughout the day. What I find sometimes, however, is that much of our time is spent with the extraordinary cases, the ones with the best or worst situations who feel a need to seek someone out. They say the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and in this life, its mainly because we have no idea what the other wheels are thinking until they squeak! Being with family and friends this week was an awesome experience to hear where I presume a lot of Catholics are today: not particularly pleased or angered by the Church, simply unsure of a number of things and either unable or unwilling to find someone to ask. The common problem I found this week was that the Church has a twofold problem: education and public relations. The majority of people in the pews simply don’t know what they don’t know. As I think about my future in the Church, this is a big issue that I feel called to work with.

That being said, there’s no use “waiting until I’m older” to get started. In a sort of “But wait, there’s more!” sort of gimmick, my travels are just beginning: next weekend I’ll be in Athens, Georgia at the University of Georgia speaking to the Catholic Student Center about living a vocation in the Church (not just being a friar, but I’ll make sure to emphasize that option!) and in early May I’ll be going down to Raleigh to St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church to speak at all the masses about supporting the friars (and again, maybe even becoming one!)

For me, there’s just too much out there to do to sit around. There’s a great message to be shared, and while some people will come to hear it, it may require us to be a bit more itinerant, meeting people where they are. That’s my mission for now! Off I go again!

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2014 in Post-Novitiate

 

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Radical Obedience

There are few people that live obedience more radically than these two!

There are few people that live obedience more radically than these two!

When we think of things that are “radical” about religious life, things like helping the poor, shared life in community, and celibacy all come to mind as being counter-cultural witnesses to Christian life. How often, however, do we associate obedience with being radical? By their very definitions, one would think, “radical” and “obedience” are closer to opposites than synonyms: one requires submission, the other fundamental change. Obedience is something for children and the oppressed, not for radicals that want to change the world. And yet, I stand by the title of this post. Even more boldly, I stand by the statement that obedience is the most radical thing we as Franciscans can share with the Church and the world.

Before you click to a new link, hear me out! I’m not trying to start a cult or militia, and I’m not asking anyone to stop being a free thinker. Quite the opposite actually.

The way I see it, we live in a society focused entirely on the individual. We have become such an inwardly looking people that we have given up on absolute, universal Truth. Truth in today’s world is determined by the individual based on what is considered meaningful, and it varies from person to person. “That may be true for you, but it’s not for me,” one may say. Inevitably, it devolves into a system of belief that can only say, “Who are you to tell me what to do? I believe whatever I want.” In this world of thinking, the world in which the only obedience is obedience to self, we have made ourselves into gods. This is not truth at all. This is delusion.

Christianity professes a very different idea of Truth: Jesus Christ, God incarnate, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and he is obedient to the Father. St. Paul writes in the letter to the Philippians that Jesus humbled himself by renouncing his place in heaven to take on flesh, that he was “obedient to death, even death on a cross.” As fully divine and fully human, this act of obedience was a full and conscious choice and the part of Jesus, a choice that could have gone otherwise: just as He was free in the desert to be tempted by the devil, Jesus was free to let fear of pain and death deter him from doing what He was asked to do. Had it been up to his own will, things might have been different:

Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.” He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Mt 26:38-39)

Jesus provides us with a perfect example of obedience: even though He did not want to do it, and wasn’t completely sure if what He was being asked to do was entirely necessary, He did it anyway. Was it because He was brainwashed and couldn’t think for himself? Hardly. His example of obedience is rooted in humility, trust, and faithfulness to what he knew was the will of God. Jesus’ kenosis included giving up the need to know, the need to be in control, and the need to be consulted before God made the decision. All Jesus needed was to pray and to live in the tension of the situation.

When I look at obedience through this lens, I see it as an openness to be moved, to be taken outside of one’s comfort zone, and to be brought outside the realm of control. It is radical trust in people we love, in people who have gone before us and claim to know the way, and in God, knowing that our feeble attempts at controlling our world pale in comparison to the active work of God in salvation history.

As I study more philosophy and theology, and as I begin to take on a more active ministerial role in the Church, I am increasingly faced with teachings and actions of the Church that leave me unsettled. In some cases, I find myself truly struggling to accept them. And so I return to the title of this post: what does it mean to live with radical obedience when faced with situations that seemingly challenge my conscience? It means living in the tension between humbly challenging and faithfully trusting. The church does not need brainwashed robots that will blindly follow its every command, especially when they may be contrary to the Gospel. At the same time, the Church needs people to recognize that it is founded on nearly two thousands years of tradition and tremendous amounts of prayer, study, and action. After 24 years of life, am I really willing to say that I know more than the collection of theological thinkers over two millennia? I hope not.

When I look to history for other examples of faithful Christians faced with the same issues, a Saint and Pope bearing the same name come to mind: Francis. The profound counter-cultural nature of their lives reveals a disconnect between the Church they imagine and the Church they see; there is no doubt that these men saw a Church in need of reform. And yet, I daresay you will not find a single line of either of their’s calling for revolution, denouncing a Church teaching, or encouraging dissent from the outside. The humility and reverence for the Church is simply too great in each of them. Rather, the profound reform of these two men emanates from inside, within the limits of a less-than-perfect church, through their living of the Gospel as authentically as possible and by challenging the Church to do the same.

This is the type of radical obedience I hope to live. The type of obedience that says, “I may not agree, but I’m willing to try.” The type of obedience that trusts before it dissents, investigates before it acts. The type of obedience that holds the revelation and dogma of the Church in one hand, my own will and the will of the people I serve in the other, and refuses to ever let go of either. I assure you that I will never find the answer to all of our questions and I severely doubt that I will ever be able to profess without reservation everything the Church teaches, but my charism as a Franciscan will always guide me live life in the tension of these realities. For Franciscans, we do not seek easy answers to difficult questions. The world is not so black and white. For us, God is in the grey area, the murkiness, the tension. It is in faithfully trusting what we do not know, imitating our Lord that did the same, that we are able find God.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2014 in Discernment, Prayer

 

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My Favorite Things!

Who says you have to be one of the richest people in the world to broadcast your favorite things through the media to strangers? If Oprah can do it I can do it! (There will be no cars, sweaters, or vacations given away due to reading this post, however. You may look under your chair, but I am not responsible for anything you may find.)

What I mean is actually quite different than the way she means it (obviously.) With a blog, posts come and go. As soon as a new post is written the old one is moved closer to the bottom of the pile (no matter how good or popular it may be!) Because of that, I decided to go back and set aside a few of my favorite posts from the past three years and put them together on a separate tab on this site. You’ll notice on the top of the screen that there is a new tab called “My Favorites” in between “About Me” and “Photos”. Click that link and you’ll see what I mean. As new ones come along, I’ll add them to the list.

Also, I’d love to hear which posts were your most favorite and to hear the sorts of things you’re interested in! Thank you all for your support in my vocation and in your encouraging comments!

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2014 in Announcement

 

Franciscan Justice: A Life of Minority

A viewing of this 1984 movie kicked off our monthly JPIC fraternal gatherings.

A viewing of this 1984 movie kicked off our monthly JPIC fraternal gatherings.

As I’ve mentioned on a few occasions, one of the defining characteristics of Franciscans (and one of the main reasons that I was drawn to this life in the first place) is our call to peace and justice in the world. Since Francis’ meeting with the sultan during the Fifth Crusade, we have been widely known as a brotherhood of peacemakers. For this reason it is the Franciscans that have been entrusted with caring for the Holy Land.

As time has passed, the world has come to realize that there is much more to peace than simply pacifism: there is a call for justice to mitigate the causes of violence. As Pope Paul VI is famously quoted in saying, “If you want peace, work for justice.” In other words, people that are respected and well fed are less likely to act with violence than are people who are oppressed, abused, hungry, or dehumanized. In this way, peace will never be anything more than the lack of violence if all we do is treat the symptoms, that is, the visible flareups. True peace is achieved by recognizing the many forms of injustice all around us and treating those afflicted with dignity and respect. This is our call as Franciscans.

This is not without conversion, I must say. LIke anyone else, we as friars must be constantly called to look at our own lives and to reevaluate the ways our actions affect the world. Without careful examination and focused initiatives, it is very easy for us to lose track of what is important or to become apathetic to the issues of our world; without constant education and thoughtful action, it is very easy to come across as ineffective in our ministries or even detrimental to those around us; without a foundation in prayer and holiness, it is very easy to lose site of why we do what we do and even burn out.

For the Order of Friars Minor, that’s the role of the office for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) and its animators, both on the provincial and house level. In our house, I’m privileged to be on the JPIC committee, and excited for the initiatives we have in store. Recognizing that we are a very large, busy, eclectic and academic bunch, we’ve decided that the best way to go about forming a corporate identity of justice was to devote each month to a different topic for education and prayer culminating in a movie, speaker, or fraternal event.

This evening was our first of these events. With Immigration as our topic, roughly fifteen of us came together to watch the movie El Norte and to have a brief discussion. (If you haven’t seen it, I strongly recommend it. You can see the trailer here.) Filmed in English, Spanish, and Maya, the movie depicts the lives of two Guatemalan exiles that flee oppression and violence in their village for what they believe will be the answer to all of their problems: the north. After a dangerous journey through Mexico, they realize that their idealized view of the United States is but a fantasy. Despite the affluence around them, they are no better financially than they were before. Life is difficult.

What I found most tragic about this story (a story with no happy ending, I might add) is the monologue the woman gives on her deathbed. She says,

In our own land, we have no home. They want to kill us. … In Mexico, there is only poverty. We can’t make a home there either. And here in the north, we aren’t accepted. When will we find a home, Enrique? Maybe when we die, we’ll find a home.

Can there be anything more tragic? I think about all of the people who live this reality each and every day, forced to leave behind all that is familiar for a new language, new culture, new climate, new set of relationships, and a new way of life, and it breaks my heart to think about the level of dejection they must feel. They have no home. They are strangers, outcasts of society.

When I look at my own life through this lens, it devastates me. In a material sense, look at all I have. In contrast, the characters in this movie fantasized about having a house with a toilet. But its much more than that. I can honestly say that the most dejected I have ever felt was in a language class. Here I was, a confident (even cocky), intelligent, comfortable guy reduced to speaking like an infant, unable to express myself, and feeling like an idiot because I couldn’t catch on. My whole world was reduced to nothing in those moments; I felt trapped and helpless. That was for one hour a day and it could end up ruining the rest of the day sometimes. Can I even imagine what it must feel like to do that for 24 hours a day, away from friends and family all the while living in fear of being caught without documentation. Such a level of dejection and dehumanization I will never feel.

Which brings me to the JPIC reflection for the month: how can I actually be minor when I know that people live like this minutes from my house. As a Franciscan, we are called by our General Constitutions “to have the life and condition of the little ones in society, always living among them as minors. In this social environment they are to work for the coming of the Kingdom.” (Article 66) How is this even possible? In a very real sense, the most devastating thing about this movie is that it forces me to look at my own life and to realize there there is nothing “minor” about it. The material possessions at my disposal, the social connections to guide and support me, the legal status that I possess, and the comfort I have in feeling that I am “home” in my own culture and speaking my own language ensure that I will never be as minor as those I serve. There is something about being comfortable that can never be minor.

And so I reflect. I take this with me to prayer for the rest of the month (and undoubtably longer) as I try to figure out how I can see to act justly in this world and to do so as a friar minor. Part of me knows that I will never come to the answer that is perfectly satisfying in every way, but that’s okay. As a friar minor, I am called to a life of constant conversion, a life of asking these questions and evaluating my life so to actually be the person I say that I am.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Fraternity, Justice

 

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Sin, A Social Problem

The effects of our individual actions have tremendous social effects.

The effects of our individual actions have tremendous social effects.

While sin is primarily a result of an individual’s misconduct, the consent in thought, word, or action to something contrary to the Eternal Law of God (see previous post), there are clearly effects of sin that disseminate far beyond the original act and remain long after forgiveness has been given.

For instance, if I were to harm another person, let’s say even kill them, I would be gravely sinning. Upon realizing the evil I had done, returning to God with a contrite heart, and wishing to converted in mind and body, we believe that God’s mercy would prevail and I would be forgiven of that grave sin. End of story, right? Hardly. What about the family of the person killed who must now say goodbye forever and may be burdened psychologically or financially? What about the community that must live with the shock and terror of such a horrid act happening so close to home? What about the children (and adults for that matter) who may become traumatized, or worse yet, desensitized, by such an act and may even become more prone to commit it themselves? The ripples of sin are often so far reaching that it is difficult to conceptualize just how far they go, how they may affect others, and in what ways they may lead to other sins. In a very real sense, God cannot take away these effects because God cannot make someone forgive and cannot take away the memory of what was.

Such is the nature of our fallen state, and such is the effect of Original Sin. While we are ourselves not guilty of the first sin committed by Adam and Eve in a direct sense, we must live with the consequences in our world and in ourselves. Prior to their sin, there was nothing but pure being, obedience, and perfect relationship with God. Sure, while there was always the possibility of scorning God and blemishing that relationship, it had yet to be done. The water was perfectly still. By introducing the world to the first act of disobedience, saying “no” for the first time, a giant stone was cast into the water and its effects could not be undone: the world now new that it “no” was an option. One act of disobedience rippled into another which rippled into another until the once perfectly still water was nothing but a choppy mess. Paradise was lost, and even those who wished to remain perfectly still in obedience to God had to now live in choppy waters.

So who’s to blame? Surely we can’t scapegoat Adam and Eve for all of our problems, but can I really say that am to blame for Climate Change and pollution? War and violence? Poverty and mistreatment? Can you? The thing is, many of our cultural problems have no face and have no easy scapegoat because they are our sins; they are the sins of the collective identity we all share. In the same way that than individual sins when s/he consents in thought, word, or action to misconduct against God and neighbor, such is the case for the identity we make up as a whole. Sin in this regard is called Social Sin.

Take pollution for instance. As an individual, I may throw my trash directly into the river. If out of seven billion people I am the only person to do such a thing, the effect would be minimal, and it would be difficult to call this a sin. But what happens when we as a society don’t choose appropriate means for disposing of our trash, and while individually we only throw into the river the same amount as before, collectively we place thousands of tons of waste into natural environments? As an individual I am not culpable, but as a collective we are all at fault. The same goes for war, poverty, exploitation, disease, and energy consumption: while no single individual is the cause of the world’s disasters, each of us has contributed to the whole and has taken part in the collective identity, either in direct support or general apathy, in order to produce worldwide sins.

So once again I ask: why write about sin? Like the previous post, I write with less of an eye for judgment and more of a hope for reconciliation. Sin exists in our world, but it need not! The first step in fixing our world, regaining the perfect union with God, neighbor and self once experienced in Eden, is recognizing that we have sinned, and how we have sinned. Sin is much more than thinking mean thoughts and its effects reach much further than a guilty conscience; it pervades the lives of our brothers and sisters and it lasts.

What I call for is a consciousness of our relationship with our surroundings, both as individuals and as the collective. At the end of the day, have my thoughts, words, and actions left this world in a better place or have they left someone else, maybe halfway around the world, worse off? While the cause of our social sin may not be due to one person, the reconciliation needed to make things right may be. It takes one person to ask the question; one person to light a spark; one person to set the example; one person to stop the perpetuation of social sin, even if that is in only one case. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: the way we eat, the places we shop, what we do with our excess, and how we treat the least in our society are not trivial issues. To think, speak, or act without answering these questions, while individually having only a minute effect on the world around us, may in fact be sin.

Ultimately I write this to bring to all of our attention the necessity for true reconciliation for our sins. When we realize we have sinned and ask God for forgiveness, we believe that God will be merciful and forgive us. But our act of conversion does not end there. We must seek to fix what we have done. True reconciliation is mending relationships that have been hurt, forgiving those who have sinned against us, and altogether trying to put the world back to the way it was before we sent a ripple of sin through it. If we believe sin to be a relational problem with social effects, reconciliation must also be relational with social effects. How have you affected your world today?

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Theology

 

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Sin, A Relational Problem

Sin the is slow unraveling of a rope, separating us in our relationships with God, neighbor, and self.

Sin the is slow unraveling of a rope, separating us in our relationships with God, neighbor, and self.

Sin is a difficult topic to speak about in today’s world. On the one hand, due largely to theologians such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, there are those that can see nothing but humanity’s sinfulness, believing that humans are by our very nature “depraved,” so much so that God the Father is concerned only with justice and that Jesus is only able to cover our sins. This is evident in the “fire and brimstone” style sermons and the scare tactics of billboards portraying a fiery hell for sinners.  On the other hand, due largely to the effects of the New Age Movement and Modern relativism on Christianity, there are those that overemphasize the redemptive mercy of God to the extent that sin is essentially non-existent, and nothing could ever separate us from God. This is evident in phrases like, “Who are you to judge?” and “If God loves us how could there be such a thing as Hell?”

The fact of the matter is that our Trinitarian God is a God of justice AND mercy; a God of expectations AND exceptions; a God of patience AND anger. A quick breeze through the Bible reveals this two-fold response (and while slightly off topic and impossible to show in just a few lines, it is entirely false to think of the Old Testament God as a God of justice and wrath and the New Testament God as a God of mercy and love. In a lot of ways, it is quite the opposite. Maybe another time, but I digress…) The fact of the matter is that God has the capacity for both unbound mercy and irrefutable justice (and it it not up to us which one will be expressed!

So, what then is sin, and why does the majority of the world have such an unclear understanding of it? When we look to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, sin is defined as

An offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.” (1849)

In essence, sin is an act against relationships. Implicit in this definition is the goodness of the relationship, whether with God, neighbor, or self, that once was and is yet possible: to speak of sin as the absence or failure of love requires that there be at some point the perfect expression of that relationship to begin with. Goodness explains sin, not the other way around. There is need for the perfect relationship for there to be sin, but there is no need for sin to explain the possibility of a perfect relationship.

And so what is a “perfect” relationship? It is the relationship that is oriented towards the Eternal Law, the law of God dictating the way things are and should be. This can be known through the scientific study of Reason or the expressed Truth of Divine revelation, both of which can manifest themselves through one’s conscience.

When we evaluate our actions, we ask ourselves: has this utterance, deed, or desire brought me closer to God, neighbor, and self, or has it divided what once was and stunted what could have been? 

The list of actions that divide and stunt is infinite in length and may actually be a bit relative to the time, place, and situation. We must not allow ourselves to become so attached to the literal interpretation of God’s law, e.g. The Ten Commandments, that we fail to see the possibility for destroying God’s kingdom all around us. Sure, I may not have every physically murdered anyone in my life, but I have certainly hurt people with my words that have effectively ruined the possibility for relationship in the future. I may not have born false witness against my neighbor in a public court of law, but I sure as heck have spread gossip that tarnished someone’s image and ultimately weakened my relationship with them and with others. I may not have stolen anything substantial in my life, but I have certainly possessed more than I needed when there were those around me in dire need. In each of these cases, a current relationship was weakened and the potential for a future relationship was all but eliminated.

So why write about sin? Is it because I’m feeling really self-righteous and want to cast anyone into the fires of hell or to make people feel self-conscious? Absolutely not. I share these three examples of my own sins to diffuse any sense of self-righteousness. What’s really at stake here is the power of the community of believers to feel in communion with one another and to feel responsible for each other’s livelihoods in Christ. The Church is not some social gathering or academic class in which people sign up for their own sake, get what they need out of it, and then go home. There is something powerful about the community of faith, coming together as the body of Christ, striving to be in greater communion with one another and God. We are not simply individuals with a common goal; we take on a collective identity.

To do so, we must be in right relationship with God, neighbor, and self. To disregard the power of sin, the divisive effects of evil in our lives, cheapens and divides this community. We must seek always to be in right relationship with our brothers and sisters, all of them, and when we fall short, to ask forgiveness so as to be readmitted into the community. This is the beauty of the sacrament of reconciliation. When we ask absolution from a priest, we are not simply going to some middleman so that God will forgive us because we are unable. God could and does do this without a priest. What we miss when we do not receive this sacrament is the gentle correction of a figure of wisdom, the guidance to find our way back, and the official welcome back into the community of believers.

Unfortunately, even though sin is the result of a personal action, it has a social, lasting effect in the world that cannot be removed simply by God’s forgiveness. One may be forgiven by God for killing someone, but the effect of that sin is irreversible, and the relationships that have been broken because of it require much more work on the part of the sinner to be healed. In most cases, what once was may never be recovered. This is the power of sin, but it need not exist.

This is where I’d like to pick up in my next post: sin as a communal problem. If we see sin as broken relationship, it is something that goes far beyond the personal act, and is something that pervades our every moment. What must we do to conquer it?

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2014 in Theology

 

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[Not] Too Busy To…

A lot of times, my prayer is simply putting down my books, turning off my cell-phone, and for twenty minutes just sitting without worrying about what I have do to.
A lot of times, my prayer is simply putting down my books, turning off my cell-phone, and just sitting without worrying about what I have do to. Its amazing what can happen if you just give God a little time.

…write this post, frankly. What can I say? I’ve got a lot on my plate! Between 15 credits of courses that require a lot of reading and writing, teaching two confirmation classes, the fraternal prayer and meal schedule, starting up JPIC (Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation) events in the house, an ever-increasing list of speaking opportunities, and a host of other things I hope to do this year to keep me a healthy, sane, and social person, there’s very little time to spare. It would be very easy for me to become overwhelmed, defeated, or even cut a few things out.

The fact of the matter is that there still is time to do many things. There is always time. What there usually is not is the ability to prioritize effectively and the perseverance to keep going when things are difficult or no longer interesting. When I fail to do these things, no amount of time in the world could ever suffice to do everything I need to do. Without these two things, apathy seeks in and even the important things lose meaning.

When people struggle to make ends meet, most will choose to cut the food or personal care budget rather than miss a mortgage or car payment, because as they see it, the mortgage and car payment has to be paid whereas food and personal care are a bit more flexible; no one is going to penalize them for not eating. These people, and there are many among us, are able to maintain the structures of their lives, but are ultimately left insufficiently nourished.

For us in religious life, or more inclusively, all who profess to be Christian, prayer is often the first thing cut for the same reason: school, work, finances, and friends often bring about obvious penalties if neglected, whereas prayer does not. As a result, just as in the case of the person struggling to make ends meet, we are able to maintain the structures of our lives, but are ultimately left insufficiently nourished.

One friar in our house often says, “Prayer must always remain a priority. Like meals, school work, exercise, and fraternity time, it needs to be set in the schedule for thirty minutes each day so as to not be neglected.” This is quite obvious and makes perfect sense: if time is set out during the day, no matter what, for something like exercise, shouldn’t prayer be as well. But that’s not the end of it: “And in times when you’re busy, those times when you’re overwhelmed and can’t imagine how you’re going to get through it all, make it an hour.” How contradictory to the way most of us normally act! And yet, how true! What is it that’s going to keep us going? What is it that nourishes us? What is it that gives us meaning and reminds us why? It is relationship with God. It is prayer. In times of great struggle, even when there is little time to spare, a little prayer can go a long way.

For me, I find myself spending my entire day working directly and indirectly for God. Whether it’s studying so as to be an ordained minister in the future, directly serving to the people of God through ministry opportunities, spending time with the fraternity, or taking care of my mind and body through exercise and social opportunities, I find myself very busy for God’s sake. But is that all God wants, to spend my time doing things for God? I don’t think so. If a relationship is predicated solely on doing things for another, never doing things with another, all one would be left with is an impersonal agreement of benefits among acquaintances. I dare say: this may not even be a relationship at all. I must always remind myself of this fact. Even though I find myself busy doing God’s work and training myself to do it even better in the future, too busy to do much more than I’m already doing, I cannot say that I am truly in a relationship unless I take the time to actually pray, that is, spend quality time with God.

There is always time for prayer. Always. I may be too busy to do everything I could ever dream of doing, but I know for sure that I am not too busy to pray.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2014 in Prayer

 

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