Thursday, January 23, 2014

Looking Back at ND Vision

It's been seven months since I went to Notre Dame for ND Vision.   Normally, when I've been to retreats I come back on a high from the mountain top experience but quickly settle back down to normal day life.   ND Vision was different.  It still rocks my world to this day.  It's not uncommon for me to have dreams about going to Notre Dame.  That's not to say that I haven't resorted back to my sinful nature but the amount of spiritual growth I made in those five days was more than I had grown in years.

For the longest time, I always said that I wanted to be a window that people can see Christ through.   I wanted God's love to shine through me and to attract people to Him.  The problem is that throughout the years, I've tried to point people to God saying, "there He is.  Isn't it wonderful" when instead I should have been saying was, "HERE He is.  He is wonderful."   I was pointing towards Him without fully experiencing His love for myself.   I was cowering down in the shadows, afraid of His light, afraid of His love because I was afraid that it would expose my darkness.   I was pushing Him away because I did not feel worthy of His love.

At Notre Dame, God touched me and exposed me to His love like I had never felt before.   I believe it was a sample of what purgatory must be like where God slowly exposes Himself to us and purifies us.   It was overwhelming.  It was torturous.  It was painful.  And it was the most amazing and wonderful feeling in the world.  He tore me down and built me back up and made me realize that, no, I'm not worthy of His love but it doesn't matter---He loves me not matter what I do.  No matter the secrets I think I'm hiding from Him and no matter my blemishes.

So now, when I talk about God, I no longer point down the road saying, "He is down there."  I am able to point at myself and say that, "He is right here."   I truly can let His love shine through me.

The second huge event that occurred that week that I would compare to the moment in John 19:27.   Jesus was on the cross and He saw the Virgin Mary and John, the beloved disciple.   He said to Mary, "Woman, behold your son!" and then He said to John, "Behold, your Mother!"  

I had an experience on the Tuesday afternoon while walking around St. Mary's Lake where I believe that I felt Mary's presence.  I believe she was with me and I believe that Jesus used that week encourage me to find a devotion to Mary and remind me that she is my mother too and that I should use her when I need help.   And what a better place to this than at Notre Dame, a university dedicated to Our Lady.

I look forward to going back to ND Vision this summer.   Right now I don't know how I'm going to get there but I'm going to get there somehow.  I don't care if I have to drive myself, fly a plane or walk.  I am going to get there.  And I'm excited to see what God has in store for me.  

Monday, January 6, 2014

Change is Good

Last night at mass we celebrated the Solemnity of The Epiphany of the Lord---when the three wise men came to visit Jesus in the manger.   In his homily, Fr Rogers gave us several lessons that we can take from this encounter in the Bible.   The last one is the one that really struck me.

At the end of the gospel reading, we are told that, ". . .having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way."  (Matthew 2:12)   Fr. Rogers pointed out that after we encounter Jesus we should not expect to return to being the same person.  There should be a change in us.  

Change is scary.  Nobody likes change.   But we cannot prevent it.   We all change---physically, mentally and spiritually.   I'm not the person I was ten years ago.   Nothing stays the same.  Not even televisions shows.   The popular BBC television show, "Doctor Who" recently celebrated it's 50th anniversary and it certainly has not remained the same.  The main character hasn't even remained the same.  The Doctor, an alien timelord, is able to regenerate whenever he is about to die.   He changes into a different body but with every regeneration The Doctor doesn't just change his body but his personality.  It's the same person but with a different body and different personality but with the same personal history (Not quite as difficult as trying to explain the trinity but close)

This is why fans of Doctor Who have their favorite "Doctor."    Some people have their favorite from when they were growing up while others have one of the newer doctors as their favorite.   There is always a lot of anger, sadness and gnashing of teeth when one regenerates into another.   This last occured during the most recent Christmas special when the eleventh doctor, played by Matt Smith, regenerated into the twelfth doctor, played by Peter Capaldi.  Before his transformation, as he was in the Tardis, "Eleven" tells his companion, Clara:

Yes, we are all changing.  And it's okay.  The important thing is that we are changing for the positive.  Especially in the spiritual life.  We must always move forward and part of moving forward is a constant evaluation of ourselves and an evaluation of where we need to make those changes in our lives so that we can move closer to Christ.   That's not always easy.  In fact, it can be downright difficult.

A prayer that I say quite often is one that I learned from Mark Hart.  It is, "Lord, I grant you permission, to remove anyone, or anything, that will keep me from you."   I only hope that I change into someone who is pleasing to God.  And that God finds bowties pleasing.  Because bowties are cool.  

Friday, January 3, 2014

Spiritual Funk

So earlier this week I was down in the dumps.  I was depressed, blue, melancholy.   It was a big pity party for me.  Everyone and everything was ticking me off.  I even texted my wife and told her I was feeling down.  

By Tuesday things weren't better but it was more than just winter doldrums.  I felt that someTHING was causing me to feel like this.  It wasn't just depression or dryness or anything like that.  It was more of a detached ness or numbness.    I felt like I was suffering from a spiritual attack.  I texted a friend who I can go to in all things spiritual and asked for prayers.  

Come Wednesday night, I was so off the mark that I didn't even take communion when I went to mass.    I texted my friend again and received some good, sound, advice.  I also decided to go to confession.  

So this morning, I woke up early and went to Our Lady of Good Counsel for confession.  It was amazing.  It really was. After I gave my confession, the priest read a couple of Psalms to me and it was like he was looking right into my heart and telling me what I needed to hear.  And it wasn't advice that came from what I had told him during my confession.  It was fascinating.  It was as if he had read the text messages between my friend and I and knew exactly what was going on in my soul.   

People criticize Catholics and ask, "why go to a priest when you can confess right to God?" And a good response is that the priest is acting "in persona Christi" or "in the person of Christ."   Let me tell you what, that may have just been a priest on the other side of that screen, but don't tell me I wasn't confessions my sins to God and definitely don't try to tell me that it wasn't Jesus talking back to me because there is just no other way to explain what the priest told me.

I told myself the last time I went to confession that I needed to go more often.  Every three or four month was too long.  I decided that once a month was good.  Well, I waited over a month and I think I waited too long.  The problem is, at four weeks, I don't feel like I need it. I wonder what I would say.  I've behaved, I've been good.  Maybe all I have to take is some small, veinial sins but maybe that is eight.  I think I need that reset every four weeks. Maybe it's how I'm wired.  I dunno.   But that's what I'm going to try to do.