Sunday, September 21, 2008

Studying, Serving, Practicing, Playing, Praying, Sleeping...

...all but exercising, which I've got to make sure I work into the schedule somehow. Yep - I'm doing all those things; and more or less loving it. I can't say that the transition back to seminary this year has been as easy as I thought - but then again, that is probably my inexperience at transitioning back to seminary at play more than anything else. (After all, this is my first time transitioning back to seminary ever!)

Studying
Yeah - there's that going on of course. I really like my courses this semester. Intro to Biblical Studies, where we explore the Psalms and prayer forms. Modern Philosophy, guys like Descartes, Hume, Locke, Kant, Hobbes. Epistemology, the philosophy of knowledge...wrestling with philosophic questions and problems many attribute to Descartes' philosophy. Word & Interpretation, where we read classic literature (The Odyssey, The Inferno, Heart of Darkness, Grapes of Wrath, etc) and learn what it means to interpret texts... because after all, the primary job of a priest is to interpret the text of our lives and the lives of those we're called to serve and lead against the text of the life of Christ, the text of our call to holiness. Yeah - I'm studying... and for the most part really enjoying it.

Serving
It is truly Providence at work that I was asked to serve the community as the Banquet Coordinator this year. I discovered very early on what a real center of my peace, a real energy-giving activity, a real source of pleasure I receive from opportunities to serve the community - I learned that through trying to be welcoming and hospitable to the community in the very practical and pedestrian act of spreading food on a table for them.

I'm also blessed with many other opportunities to serve the community - and hope it continues to transform me into being a good and faithful servant. (I really DO try to reflect on and approach all these 'menial' jobs as an opportunity for conversion and 'pastoral formation' so to speak for the ministry I may be blessed to offer others.) I work in the library a couple hours two days a week, and I'm SO EXCITED to have a shift at the soon to open coffee shop here on campus. (YES!!! Can you believe it? After all this time being sans Starbucks, we're opening a real, quality coffee shop on the Hill!) Joke's on them, though... we get free coffee drinks while we're working. My mom said, when she learned this, something like: 'Do they KNOW how much you love coffee?' I also agreed to take care of the computer labs we have for students here on the Hill. (Time management skills - finding them, using them, improving on them - will be in the works as well.) My Gammaw (that's a grandmother, only a particularly special on) was right on the money in an email she sent me the other day: "Sounds like you're busy... but you always seem to do better when you're busy." Yep, Gammaw, you're right.

My challenge is to not get "over-busy"; and certainly NOT to get so wrapped up in DOING that I forget about BEING. So much activity that I don't pray. Again, its good practice I think. If I can try (and fail, and get better, and try again) to strike that balance as part of my formation, hopefully I'll be better prepared to strike that balance when the seminary days are over.

Practicing
I'm practicing all kinds of things - and doing better at some than at others. I suppose that's to be expected. I'm practicing Benedictine obedience. (Practicing, folks...I'm a long way from getting it right.) I've been struck over and over again by the deep and significant difference between what I most often think of as the definition of obedience (i.e., doing what you're told) and the way St. Benedict talks about obedience in The Rule. Obedience is, he says, the "strong and noble weapon...to do battle for the true King". Obedience as a weapon for the Gospel? That in and of itself has been a deep source of reflection. But St. Benedict goes on (and on... and on...) about obedience. "Unhesitating obedience" he says "comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all". (Chapter 5) As I look at my 'strictly-speaking-obeying' I see that I've a long way to go between that and "unhesitating obedience". Do you really want to know the passage I struggle with and pray with (and hope to be growing with)? (WARNING: This may be uncomfortable... it may challenge you in all kinds of ways... at least its challenging me:)

"This very obedience, however, will be acceptable to God and agreeable to men only if compliance with what is commanded is not cringing or slugging or half-hearted, but free from any grumbling or any reaction of unwillingness."

KA-BAM!! There it is, folks. By that score, its a good thing I'm practicing obedience (and a good thing I have opportunity to practice - 'cause I got a long way to go.)

Want to know the funny thing? I could just outright disregard this whole 'deeper' conception of obedience all together. I'm not a Benedictine. I'm not entering a Benedictine community. I could just say, "UM... no thanks to that." Problem is, those words ring so true somewhere inside. The more I read and meditate on the Rule, the more I feel as if it is calling me forward into continuing to become the person I can be. So, I can't just disregard what St. Benedict says. (Part of the reason I'm continuing my prayer about making a final commitment as an Oblate of St. Meinrad.)

I'm practicing some fun things, too. Sr. Bernadone Rock, FSE is our new director of liturgical music here at Meinrad, and she offers voice and piano lessons, and for right now I'm taking both. (I may have to give up the voice lessons to free up some time, we'll see.) So, for about 20 minutes each day, I'm tinkering away on a piano, and frightening those who might hear with my scary singing. *grin* But I'm finding I really enjoy both - and though its more 'time allotted' in my daily calendar, its time that feels like 'play'...and that seems important and healthy.

Playing
No - I haven't thrown the baby out with the bathwater. I'm still finding time to play. Those who know me, and have heard my standard "What's it like at seminary" can rest assured that I still head over to Jasper about once a weekend for 'the trip' (dinner, WalMart, movie). Though this year I've branched out a bit - I don't always head to the WalMart (or if I go, I don't always find I need to buy something.) And sometimes, I've headed to one of the other little places around for dinner instead of Jasper. Don't want to get in a rut, you know.

Praying
I've been very thankful for the rhythm of prayer here at Meinrad these first weeks of school. They help me remember that prayer is the foundation and core of the life I'm being formed for. Coming together as a community for Morning Prayer (in the AM), Mass (at mid-day usually), and Evening Prayer (in the PM) helps me have concrete reminders throughout the day that its all about prayer. I'm continuing my practice of reading and practicing a loose form of Lectio Diving with upcoming Sunday Mass readings - and occasionally I write a homily-type reflection to go with that. My daily reading and prayer with the The Rule of Benedict continues. And, I still find that as I'm walking around campus, heading from one place to the next, or just catching a quiet moment somewhere, I continue to have that 'dialogue with God' going on. I'm so grateful for that.

...as you can see, God's grace is all around me!!! What a privilege it is to be called to the seminary, to have the opportunity to be formed into a person of community and ministry. In those moments when I can connect most with that profound reality, with that miracle, with the privilege of formation... in those moments I'm most at peace.

Oh yeah... I forgot Sleeping... I'm off to do that now. Peace to you.