Monday, April 18, 2016

First Semester Almost in the Bag

I'm nearing the end of my first semester of diaconate formation.  My last class of the semester is this Wednesday.  Last paper is due then and I'm off until the end of August.  I'll need to do 10 hours of "shadowing" with another deacon over the summer, which is in the works.  Not sure what I expected this semester, but it's been very interesting.  Academically, it's been no sweat.  I've been able to block out the time to get the work done and don't feel like I've been ignoring other areas of my life.  My grades are fine and I have no worries about passing the course.

Spiritually it's been quite a semester.  It's not that there's been anything challenging or that I've learned something that I didn't know previously.  It's just that I've never thought about my faith in the way we've been discussing it.  I've never thought about theology as a subject and it's really broadened my thinking.  And it's left me hungry to learn more.  As in I almost can't wait until the fall to get into it again.

I think the biggest impact on me has been reading Pope Francis' book The Joy of the Gospel.  Part of it is the text itself but part of it is the way he approaches teaching and ministering.  One of the things we learned about in class was Liberation Theology.  Bet you didn't know there were different kinds of theology, did you?  I didn't.  Liberation Theology began in the 1970's in Latin America (think Bishop Oscar Romero).  It's basically a theology of the poor and underprivileged.  The focus is on how does theology help those that are poor and persecuted.  Hence liberation.

The central theory behind it is the praxis method.  You see a problem that needs addressing, you consider ways in which the problem can be solved, then you take action.  Then you repeat.  Pope Francis, being a Jesuit and Argentinian, is steeped in Liberation Theology and praxis methodology.  Once you know what it is, it's so obvious in his writings.  Francis' methods, primarily from Jesuit training, is to observe, discern what God wants you to do, then act.  It's the heart of his message for the Church to focus on the people that are hurting first and foremost.

It was such an "ah ha" moment for me when all of that came together.  I'm a person of action.  I think if we want to improve our country and our world we need to stop saying something should be done and start doing it.  Focus on our own communities.  Get involved with people one on one.  It's one of the things that I believe called me to begin this process.  I have no idea how that will translate into ministry or what God has planned for me, but I'm starting to see the outlines.  I'm keeping myself open to whatever the Spirit is calling me to do.

To me, this is the beauty and wonder of God's grace.  Give God a little bit of yourself and stay open to God's grace.  God will take what little we give and multiply it far more than we could have imagined.  I'm looking forward to where this journey is leading.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Finding Your Niche

My first semester of deaconate classes is quickly coming to a close.  There are two more classes this semester, this Wednesday and next.  I'll probably put up a reflection on what I've learned after next week.  However, last week, as part of the evaluation of potential deacons, I met with a psychologist who will be preparing a profile on me for myself and the diocese to review.  It was kind of a neat thing to do.  One of the questionnaires I had to fill out was kind of hysterical.  There were some seriously paranoid questions on it, like "I hear voices telling me what to do" and "I believe people are out to get me".  I don't recall the specific ones but they were in that vein.  There were some more normal questions as well so it wasn't all craziness.

One of the interesting things we did was a Rorschach test.  You know, look at ink blots and tell what you see.  One was kind of neat and reminded me of the Queen logo.  Wonder what that says about me, hmm?  You'll be happy to know that I "passed" that test and didn't show any signs of insanity.  It appears I've quite good at covering that up.

What struck me most, though, was a casual conversation that came up.  We were speaking in general about family and I was asked about my kids.  You always worry about your kids but my oldest has been on my mind a little more lately because he's preparing himself to "fly solo" and start his own life.  As a parent, it's one of those things where you look forward to them doing so but also worry about whether they're really prepared to live in the "real" world.  My oldest, especially, concerns me probably because his outlook and the way he approaches things is so very different from mine.  Not in a good or bad way, but in a way that I just can't relate.  As an example, I've always been a self starter, getting up early and giving myself plenty of time to get ready in the morning.  I give myself extra time to get anywhere and want to be there early.  He, on the other hand, times things so that he gets up as late as possible and leaves the house with just enough time to get where he needs to go.  Usually.

In the course of this discussion, the psychologist pointed something out that I had not considered and actually resonated with me as well.  When I stated I was concerned about keeping a steady job when you have trouble getting places on time, he replied that everyone finds their niche.  He related to me the story of a client that was the best there was at a seemingly very dull job.  It involved talking to customers for a few minutes to gather information and then refer them to the right person/process to get what they want.  Each call was different and this person excelled at doing it and loved the work.  They did their job so well, this person was promoted to supervisor.  Because if you do your job that amazingly well, you should be able to run the entire team, right?  Wrong.  This person failed at being a supervisor and went back to doing their old job and being happy again.

The moral of the story was that this person had found their niche in their work life.  I realized I'd gone through the same thing recently.  In my last position, I moved into an area of IT and management that placed me in a level of high responsibility and visibility, but the work itself was very different than the customer support work I'd been doing.  And I hated it.  And I didn't think I was very good at it.  I struggled with the position (for many, many reasons) even while trying to get better at doing it.  It was quite a relief when I was laid off, to be honest.

Now that I'm back doing support work, I realize that from a career perspective, this is my niche.  Along those same lines, I'm beginning to feel that from a ministerial perspective, becoming a deacon may also be my niche.  There is a lot more to come, but I'm enjoying the experience so far in the same way I enjoy the work that I do.  I think that bodes well and indicates perhaps this is indeed what God is calling my to do.  I certainly pray that all of us find our niches, personally, professionally, and spiritually.  Because finding your niche can make you very happy indeed.