Saturday, March 21, 2009

One day at a time

Yesterday I experienced some of the worst feelings of anxiety when my fears about the future appeared to be confirmed. Not mortal fears, but employment. I may have to return to my homeland since the employment situation here in the Emerald Isle continues to contract, with just over a month left on my current permit.

There is still a chance for me though... but under the circumstances, which I won't go into in detail, I won't find out until the last minute.

This could signal an abrupt change, or the continuation of a project where my enthusiasm for it has already shifted from a source of current excitement towards a place in my memory bank of the experiences for which I am thankful. A key signpost on my path.

Today I woke up after a relatively restful sleep feeling much more hopeful about the future. And it's taken me back to some of the old school 12-step principles that were so instrumental in the formative years of my adult faith.

One day at a time... one step at a time. Focus on the present for "who of you by worrying has changed a hair on his head?"

This is true. I should not fear. The change does not have to be negative - when have I ever looked at change that way?!! I LOVE change! I thrive on it!

The loss of stability and familiarity does not have to mean a loss of security. It can be seen as a catalyst for innovation in my own life, and hopefully, towards a life serving others.

That is one thing I have learned, or rather re-learned, from working in a big institution - they have no loyalty. Individuals within it may try to help you, but ultimately the institution will take your ideas and contributions and own them, disregarding the personal source. It makes me want to start my own business, but in what?

i don't know.... but time will tell. For now, I am going to continue my leisurely morning sipping coffee and reading He Leadeth Me, by Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, SJ.

Monday, March 16, 2009

From Henri Nouwen:

There was nothing spectacular about Jesus' life. Far from it! Even when you look at Jesus' miracles, you find that he did not heal or revive people in order to get publicity. He frequently forbade them even to talk about it. His resurrection too was a hidden event. Only his disciples and a few of the women and men who had known him intimately before his death saw him as the Risen Lord.'s hard for us to believe that Jesus revealed God in hiddenness. But neither Jesus' life nor his death nor his resurrection were intended to astound us with the great glory of God. God became a lowly, hidden, almost invisible God....

That's a mystery which is so difficult to grasp in an age that attaches so much value to publicity. We tend to think that the more people know and talk about something, the more important it must be. That's understandable, considering the fact that great notoriety often means big money, and big money often means a large degree of power, and power easily creates the illusion of importance.

... in our publicity-seeking world, a lot of discussions about God take it as their starting point that even God has to justify himself. People often say: "If that God of yours really exists, then why doesn't he make his omnipotence more visible in this chaotic world of ours?" God is called to account, as it were, and mockingly invited to prove, just for once, that he really does exist. Again you hear someone say: "I've no need whatever for God. I can perfectly well look after myself. As a matter of fact, I have yet to receive any help from God with any of my problems!" The bitterness and sarcasm evident in remarks of this sort show what's expected: that God should at least be concerned with his own popularity. People often talk as though God has as great a need for recognition as we do.

Now look at Jesus, who came to reveal God to us, and you see that popularity in any form is the very thing he avoids. He is constantly pointing out that God reveals himself in secrecy. It sounds very paradoxical, but accepting and, I would venture to say, entering into that paradox sets you on the road of the spiritual life.

Allowing ourselves to be created

Here is a excerpt from an interview with the Dominican Priest that I had linked to previously. The question was about feeling certainty over his decision to become a priest:

I will never forget the moment when I finally said yes in my heart. I was in my little studio apartment in St. Louis, sitting there with my books, like a lot of grad student geeks, and I was thinking about my whole life, women, marriage, professorships, the priesthood, the Dominicans, God, all of it and none of it in particular. I was not at all certain in my intellect about a lot of things. In that memorable moment, I simply consented in my heart to do what my conscience had told me to do so very long ago, and was telling me even now to do. At that moment, in my heart, I said, "alright, I'll do it." From that point on, over many months, clarity gradually grew in my intellect, joy grew in my heart, and peace grew throughout my being. To be a priest was becoming what I wanted. You see, what happened in that moment of consent, I now realize, was that God gave me an inclination of the heart to allow him to be in my life what he truly is -- my creator. All along he wanted to create me as a priest, and I was saying no. As soon as I said yes, the creation of the priest commenced at a whole new level in my being. God began to outfit my being with a whole new set of desires, instincts, emotions, dreams, etc..The whole thing was gradual and supernatural.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Random thoughts

I managed to go one full day yesterday without any chocolate. I felt great. I felt so great, I felt like rewarding myself with chocolate. I didn't, but I loved how my mind-body connection is a mess of contradictions.

My Lenten sacrifice was to give up chocolate and over the past two weeks, for the most part I have considerably cut down and I am glad to say that I am making progress towards abstaining. I hope it is a step that will strengthen my faith since I am having difficultly maintaining a balance of work and prayer life. I am facing a lot of uncertainty at the moment and I know that maintaining a strong individual spiritual life should be connected and supported by a greater community. I don't have any friends near me that I could count as being supportive of or even aware of that side of me. I go to Mass alone and pray alone and for the most part I like that. But it would help if I had friends that thought about these issues as I did. Am I mad to think every day about whether or not Christianity is true?

Today's Lenten prayer from Henri Nouwen speaks about how we define our contributions to life based on our worldly accomplishments but that living a Christian life means finding an inner freedom out of solitude, a lonely place, a quiet center, so that we can appreciate not what we conquer, but what is given to us.

A life without a lonely place, that is, a life without a quiet center, easily becomes destructive. When we cling to the results of our actions as the only way of self-identification, then we become defensive and possessive and tend to look at our fellow human beings more as enemies to be kept at a distance than as friends with whom we share the gifts of life....In solitude, we become aware that our worth is not the same as our usefulness.

It's good food for thought and it reminds me of a former classmate of mine, with whom I had had a falling out over something trivial. Ultimately, it came from her continuous competitiveness with me that included subtle put downs about my own accomplishments or even character traits, while boasting shamelessly about hers. This was someone who could never be alone and by her own admission, was wildly insecure and could not take criticism.

But I digress... I miss sharing little things with friends and I don't know how to make new ones.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Agnosticism to the Priesthood

From Conversion Diary, an interview with Dominican Friar, Br. James Dominic Brent, O.P.:

The story of how I knew I was called to be a priest, and the story of how I lost my faith and found it again, are basically the same story. Finding one's vocation and finding one's God are the same movement of the heart. Discernment and conversion are two ways of looking at the same movement toward God.

This speaks directly to me.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


A few ideas have been running through my head about the future, which have urged me towards the practice of discernment. Since I have been struggling with my faith, this is obviously going to be a challenge. I have to remember how and when to discern. As I recall, St. Ignatius of Loyola has been the definitive voice for learning how to discern God's word. I found an article about it here:

Before we can say discernment is actually occurring, certain conditions must be met:

1. You must desire to do God’s will. This means that this must be your fundamental choice in life.

2. You must be open to God at the moment of discerning. This means that you must be completely open to accept any of the possible results of discerning. If you are only interested in doing what you want to do, and are not open to other possibilities, then discernment is not possible.

3. You must know what God is like.

4. You must be a person who prays.

He also mentions that a good discerner must be humble, charitable and have strong courage. Now to put that into practice.

About two years ago, I remember reading one of the books he recommends, Weeds Among the Wheat by Fr. Thomas H. Green. I'll have to go back to that.

I am a very impulsive person, and the thrill of doing something new and risky always gets my blood pulsing, in a good way. I become intoxicated with adrenaline, but I have to be careful that I don't interpret that adrenaline as a message from God, encouraging me to go ahead with (insert wild plans here). It is very likely that those feelings come from my a desire to serve my own selfish whims and go off on an adventure. It is easy for me to forget that I should use new opportunities and take risks in order to serve God.

At the very least, I should be finding ways to serve God while doing things that I already consider fantastic and exciting. Right?

Update: A good quote from He Leadeth Me, by Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, SJ:
God's will can be discerned by the fruits of the spirit it brings, that peace of soul and joy of heart are two such things, provided they follow upon total commitment and openness to God alone and are not founded on the self's desires. That the validity of the call can be tested - whether it be the call of a vocation or of some new departure within that vocation - by the movements of the soul that accompany it.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Wise Words from Pope Benedict

I want to record a passage from a small book I picked up at the library today, "Questions and Answers", by Pope Benedict XVI. It contains a section whereby youth ask questions pertaining to the practice of faith in their lives.

A 17-year-old asks:

We are often led to believe that knowledge and faith are each other's enemies; that knowledge and technology are the same thing; that it was through mathematical logic that everything was discovered; that the world is the result of an accident, and that if mathematics did not discover the theorem - God, it is because God simply does not exist. ... What can I do to harmonize knowledge and faith?

Pope Benedict responds:

The Great Galileo said that God wrote the book of nature in the form of the language of mathematics. He was convinced that God had given us two books: the book of Sacred Scripture and the book of nature. And the language of nature - this was his conviction - is mathematics, so it s a language of God, a language of the Creator.

Let us now reflect now that mathematics is: In itself, it is an abstract system, an invention of the human spirit that as such in its purity does not exist. It is always approximated, but as such is an intellectual system, a great, ingenious invention of the human spirit.

The surprising thing is that this invention of our human intellect is truly the key to understanding nature, that nature is truly structured in a mathematical way, and that our mathematics, invented by our human mind, is truly the instrument for working with nature, to put it at our service, to use it through technology.

It seems to me almost incredible that an invention of the human mind and the structure of the universe coincide. Mathematics, which we invented, really gives us access to the nature of the universe and makes it possible for us to use it.

This is a wonderfully articulate expression of how scientific discovery should actually reinforce the sense of wonder and awe associated with God, as He comes shrouded in mystery. It is incredible how we've been able to realize a structure underneath the chaos on the surface; that we may not be capable of creating laws, but that we are able to extract them from what already exists. And we are free to choose how we employ them.

The Pope adds one more important insight into his analysis of the relationship between knowledge and faith:

Therefore, the intellectual structure of the human subject and the objective structure of reality coincide: The subjective reason and the objective reason of nature are identical. I think that this coincidence between what we thought up and how nature is fulfilled and behaves is a great enigma and a great challenge, for we see that, in the end, it is 'one' reason that links them both.

One reason could not discover this other reason were there not an identical antecedent reason for both.

In this sense, it really seems to me that mathematics - in which as such God cannot appear - shows us the intelligent structure of the universe. Now, there are also theories of chaos, but they are limited because if chaos had the upper hand, all technology would become impossible. Only because our mathematics is reliable, is technology reliable.

Our knowledge, which is at last making it possible to work with the energies of nature, supposes the reliable and intelligent structure of matter. Thus, we see that there is a subjective rationality and an objectified rationality in matter that coincide.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Prayer: Abandonment to Divine Providence

“My God, I desire with all my heart to do Your holy will, I submit in all things and absolutely to Your good pleasure for time and eternity; and I wish to do this, Oh my God, for two reasons; first: because You are my Sovereign Lord and it is but just that Your will should be accomplished; secondly: because I am convinced by faith, and by experience that Your will is in all things as good and beneficent as it is just and adorable, while my own desires are always blind and corrupt; blind, because I know not what I ought to desire or to avoid; corrupt, because I nearly always long for what would do me harm. Therefore, from henceforth, I renounce my own will to follow Yours in all things; dispose of me, Oh my God, according to Your good will and pleasure.”

The most relevant part of that quote to me is that I do not know what I desire. Like many people today, I do not have any job security for the future. My current contract is up in a month in a country where I am, as of yet, not legally permitted to remain. I may be moving back "home" in a month's time, and I am not sure how to prepare for that upheaval. I do not have any desire to pursue a job or a life anywhere else.

I remember reading something along the lines that God is responsible for the desires of your heart, and if He didn't want them there, he would take them away. I also suppose that to mean that if He wanted something else for me, He would place a burning desire that would lead me to where I ought to be.

For now, I hope to remain where I am and pray that my contract be renewed, if it is God's will. If it is not, I have not the slightest inkling of what He wants for me. I am just trying to be patient during this time. I think that is the only thing that I can do as He has not placed any other desires in my heart. Or maybe I need to search a bit deeper...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Quick update...

Found out about "Signal Graces" and the Rosary. I prayed the rosary last night and I was happy to do so. But I think it's the explanation I was looking for - about intuition. More tomorrow, have to say the Sorrowful mysteries before bed.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A few prayers...

I saw this prayer in Henri Nouwen's book, "Show Me the Way: Readings for Each Day of Lent". It is about serving God as the number one commandment, with all your heart, soul, and mind.

I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you;
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures.

I wish no more than this,
O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you with all the love
of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
with boundless confidence.
For you are my Father.


by Charles de Foucauld

Another good one from this post

“Advance with simplicity on the pathways of God, and do not worry. Hate your defects, yes, but quietly, without excitement or anxiety. It is necessary to be patient with them and to benefit from them through holy humility. For if you lack patience, your imperfections, instead of disappearing, will only grow. Because there is nothing which strengthens our defects as much anxiety and obsession to be rid of them. Cultivate your vineyard together with Jesus. To you the task of removing stones and pulling up brambles. To Jesus, that of sowing, planting, cultivating and watering. But even in your work, it is still him who acts. Because without Christ, you could do nothing whatsoever.” —St. Padre Pio