Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Snow and View From the New Room

For the second time since we've been back, we got some snow here on the Holy Hill overnight. When I awoke this morning in my new room and looked out one of the windows, I was struck with how beautiful the snow covered landscape was. These are views from my new room.

And when I made it to the Chapel for morning prayer, I noticed how wonderful the snow looked in my favorite courtyard that I've blogged about before.

This is truly a place of beauty to pray, learn, have some fun, and discern.

Getting Moved...

Yeah, yesterday was moving day for many of us here at Saint Meinrad. The long awaited renovation of St. Gregory Hall is entering its very final stages (it will be officially dedicated in a couple of weeks), and its complete enough that the seminarians occupying the space are moving this week.

GEESH! I thought I'd slimmed down my life before coming to seminary. There's nothing like a move to help you realize all the stuff you have - and how much of it you really just don't need. I didn't make any "keep or toss" decisions over this move, but I can clearly see how much I need to do another round of that.

More and more over the last year or so, I've been made aware of my attachments. Sure - like most everybody in the western world, I notice that I've got overattachment to "things". But I'm also able to see some real progress in my life on this score. I'm not nearly attached to things as I used to be - certainly not attached to having many things, the specific things, the cool things. I'm growing to be appreciative more and more of a calling in life that stops using things to keep score. I like having fewer things.

But, this move has made me aware of another kind of attachment that I struggle with that's a lot easier to overlook. I'm attached to my "nest". (I'm sure there's a better word for it, but for the life of me I can't think of one.) It seems as if it doesn't really matter to me how much or how little space I have that is a space for me... I'm less and less concerned (though I have a long way to go, believe me) with what I have to put in that space. But, I like it when I have that space, I'm in that space, what "things" I have are in a home that works for me in that space, and I'm nice and settled.

Even the idea of that space being in transition freaks me out a little bit. I've had a growing frustration over the last three weeks that really seemed to mostly vanish once I'd got the move over with - and really more than that, once I'd got settled in. In a matter of just half a day of moving, my emotional stress level was cut in half, and this morning when I woke up from sleeping in the room, probably half again. Amazing!

It's great to get this little tidbit of self-awareness, it may help me to be more proactive in move situations in the future. But there's more to it than that. More to learn to let go of. More to be ready to surrender. Diocesan priesthood in the United States today will not likely require me to be without any space in which to live and "nest". Diocesan priesthood in the United States today will not likely require me to move every couple of months even.

But - that doesn't mean that I don't need to look at this attachment, and try to become able to let go of it. We're all called to live a life where our heart is not attached to certain things, places, spaces - or even having a stable space. We're called to live a life that's attached to a cross. The closer I get to that, the more I understand its not just about sacrifice, though that's certainly there. It's also beautiful, and free, and a gift in and of itself.

Anyway...that's what's happening in my world today.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Obedience... and Grumbling

I can follow directions. I'm kinda' good at it, actually. If "you're in charge," then I'm very good at trying to understand your expectations, and doing that. But, I'm coming to see (and try to pray about) my tendency to accept "following directions" as the same as "obedience". In my heart, at least these days, I don't think these are the same things.

Following directions for me often looks like this. I hold hard and fast to what you said, and pay even more attention to what you didn't say. Like a good bureaucrat, I look for the room in between what you say and what I really want to do - and maneuver in that space like crazy. Often, I think very carefully about ways that I can ask my clarifying questions to give me the room to maneuver that I desire. And I'm pretty good at coming up with those questions, getting the answers that I want, getting the words from you I need to do mostly what I wanted to in the first place. I'm following the directions I was given - and still not being very obedient when I do that.

And then there's the grumbling. When I can't find the room to maneuver that I want, I don't just outright defy the instruction. No. I follow it. To the letter. Meticulously. Over-zealously. And gripe and moan the whole time. To everyone who will listen to me. I help others gripe and moan. I fan little sparks of frustration into flame. It's my "retribution" I suppose.

And it's not obedience.

As I sat here today reflecting on this - frustrated with my tendency in this regard, praying about it, asking God to help me with this characteristic, I looked up momentarily over my desk. There I have two photographs of Christ carrying his cross. Back bent under the weight. Blood trickling down his face. Thorny crowns piercing his brow. And there's a closeup of his face - and what do I see?

No grumbling. No grumbling...

Serenity. Acceptance. Surrender to God's will. Taking up the cross for love. And no grumbling.

We read about the Garden prayer. "Father, if it be Your will, let this cup pass from me. Not my will, but Your's be done." And no grumbling.

Barely 5 months into formation for a life of acting in the person of Christ, and my grumbling continues. At ordination - if it be God's will - I place my hands in the Bishop's and promise obedience. No - I don't promise to "follow instructions" merely. God save me from being a priest who "follows instructions" only. The bile and bitterness and discord in my own soul that I sew with mere "following instructions" leaves me wanting - I can only imagine what it offers others.

Father, save me from the mistaken "obedience" of "following directions". I seek a life of obedience to You and Your will that is free - free in love, free of grumbling, free of manipulation and maneuvering and the false-martyrdom of miserable half-hearted cross carrying. I rely on Your grace for conversion of the half-hearted heeding of instruction into the obedience of Christ that won our salvation.

Teach me, Father...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Real Talent...

You may have read some of my blog entries about our diocesan seminarian roadtrip this summer, called "Rock the Collar". On that trip, one of my seminarian brothers from the Lexington diocese took a photograph of me that he's posted on his blog... you can check it out here. Jeff also has some GREAT photos of St. Meinrad on his blog that genuinely capture the beauty and spirit of the Hill. Jeff has some real talent... he also took this photo of me that is one of the best adult photographs of myself that exist.

Thanks for sharing your photographic artistry with us Jeff.