Monday, August 29, 2016

Week of August 21

There were two significant things this week that affected me.  The first was the opening Mass for the coming school year at St. Bernard's.  The diaconate formation process is a discernment.  I've been asked my many people, including the kids, as to why I'm going through this process and why I want to be a deacon.  Nick asked me on Sunday what made me realize this was a call.  It's difficult to explain but I've found that if I'm on the path God wishes me to be on, I have a sense of peace about it and things seem to go right for me.

In preparing for Mass on Tuesday, I felt that sense of peace and that I was in the right place doing the right thing.  So, for now at least, I believe I'm on the right path.  What concerns me is whether or not I'm doing too much.  Last week and this week I have things on my calendar, mostly music related, that result in me having no time to do anything after work.  That may be a problem with finding time to get all my assignments done.  One of my classes will require a bit of work outside the classroom working with other students.  With so many rehearsals for things I've committed to, it might be too much.  I'm trying to discern whether being in a rock band is what I should be doing.  I enjoy the music and my fellow bandmates, but I'm not sure if I'm doing this for fun or to go somewhere.  I'll need to further reflect on that.

The second thing this week was going to confession for the first time in a long time.  I'd actually gone last fall on retreat but I didn't consider that a good confession as I was more concerned with work related stress than any sins that were weighing on my conscience.  This weekend I took as step towards actually unburdening myself of what I consider sin.  I've begun working on my penance.  I don't know if I'm supposed to feel differently that before or not.  I don't feel like a big weight has been taken off my shoulders or anything, but then again I wasn't feeling anything major weighing on my conscience either.  Perhaps confession is like my experience with the Eucharist as I grew in my faith many years ago.  Sometimes you need to continue receiving a sacrament and reflecting on it before it truly has an impact.  We shall see.

One other thing surprised me this week in reading for Pastoral Care.  The chapter was on feminist pastoral care and women's issues.  It showed me first of all that I really need to focus on listening to others and not to jump to my own conclusions or inject my opinions or prejudices.  But what really struck me was whether or not I was truly listening to Ellen when she talks to me or needs me to listen to her.  I can get so wrapped up with what's in my head or what I need to do next that I don't always take the time to focus on her.  I need to watch out for that and make sure I give her the time and attention she deserves.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Week of August 14

This week has been a reminder to stay in the moment and not worry overly much about the future.  It was a week filled with music rehearsals for upcoming Masses and events.  I went into the week a little overwhelmed and feeling that I may have over extended myself.  However, once we actually began a rehearsal, things were much more relaxed and some of the anxiety went away.  It was particularly rewarding to work with Mike and Doug again.  Besides being excellent musicians, they're great people that I don't want to lose touch with.

Rehearsal with the choir was also very rewarding.  It was a mixed group from all the St. Pius musical groups so it was great to work with people I hadn't played with in a while.  Also, working with the choir is far more relaxing as the only expectation is that I play the music.  With no planning needed, it's far less stressful.  Planning music and dealing with issues within the group still is a source of anxiety that makes me wonder how much longer I can do it.  Couple that with trying to work with a rock band and I again wonder if I've over extended myself.

We had a blessing in getting tickets to see the Bills/Giants game in the suite owned by Ellen's employer.  While work intruded into part of the game, just being able to get away and enjoy being there and in the moment was a blessing.  I have a habit of worrying about the future so I need to remember to enjoy what is going on now.

Classes start up again this week.  I'm looking forward to it but the work that will be involved on top of everything else I have going on may make things feel like too much.  This coming week I have something going on every night and it's all music or school related.  However, I still feel relatively at peace.  I'm trying to trust in God and pray each day for faith, peace and trust.

I've been trying to take Fr. Paul's advice concerning prayer.  Along with this journal, I'm trying to spend some prayer time listening instead of going through my list of intentions.  I'm not sure what, if anything, to expect, but I know that insight has come to me in the past when I stop thinking about things too much and just quiet my mind.  It tends to wander where it will and can give me good insight.  I believe that is when the Spirit is speaking to me.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Week of August 7

One of my struggles this week was of trust.  Trust that God will take care of me.  Trust that I'm doing the right things.  I'm not sure exactly what caused me to worry, but it really brought me down.  It was one of the usual things, financial.  Overall, God has taken care of me but lately it seems like we're getting hit with large expenses.  It doesn't help that I felt we shouldn't have taken the vacation that we did.  While it was enjoyable and we all loved the experience, I sometimes feel that we would have been better off keeping the money available in case we need it.

And this feels like the root of my lack of trust.  I keep saying that everything that happens to me is part of God's plan.  I believe He put me in my last job to remind me that money isn't everything.  I'm now doing work I really enjoy, but the difference in pay is significant.  It's hard sometimes to trust that God is still looking out for us and can take a little and turn it into a lot.  Or make sure that the jar never runs dry.

Part also may be feeling a little overwhelmed with commitments.  I believe I'm called to music ministry.  But I've committed to a few other Masses outside of the usual ones and it is shaking my confidence to deliver.  I always want to do the best I can but feel like sometimes the load is on me to make sure it all comes together.  Planning the music, playing referee between the musicians and staff, an upcoming event cantoring for the Bishop.  That has me quite nervous.  When I agreed to do it, I didn't know the Bishop would be celebrating Mass that evening.  If I had, I might not have agreed.  Now it's a little more than a week to go and I don't know the music and am not sure there will be time to rehearse it.

Again, where is my trust?  Every other time I've played, it's all gone well.  Any mistakes are minor.  But I can't shake feeling that something will go horribly wrong.

Mass helped a lot today.  We had a visiting priest who at that beginning of Mass told us to lay all of our troubles, concerns, and fears on the altar and give it to God.  I tried to do that.  I did bring me a measure of peace today.  Although reflecting on it again does bring back some of the trepidation.  I need to try to let go of the worry and fear and try to make wise decisions.  I also need to focus on doing whatever I do (work or ministry) well and in the service of others.  Not an easy thing but I need to just keep going forward.

It's hard to think of my blessings this week beyond the usual.  I'm always grateful for Ellen and her presence in my life.  I'm grateful for friends and family and the people I get to work with and play music with.  I know I need to get to confession so perhaps it's time to reflect more deeply on that and just go.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Spiritual Formation

One of the requirements of deacon candidates in our diocese is to have a spiritual director.  This is someone you meet with to give you guidance on your spiritual path.  It's something I've never actually done before (have a spiritual adviser, that is) and I asked our pastor if he would be mine.  We met for the first time this past week.

We discussed many things, including what I'm looking for from an adviser.  I honestly didn't know as I'd never done it before and said so.  One of my classes this semester is Spiritual Formation so I was hoping between that classes and meeting with our pastor I'd get a clearer sense of what I wanted out of it.  When we discussed my prayer life, he'd asked if I'd done any spiritual journaling and I admitted I really hadn't.  I've used this blog to perhaps take some tentative steps in that direction, but as you can see, I haven't done so regularly.  He said I should give it a try and to make the time at whatever periodicity I thought best, daily, weekly, etc.  So, for now, I thought I would give it a try here weekly and see where it goes.  I don't know if a spiritual journal should be public or not and at some point if I continue I may go offline with it if I feel it's getting to personal.  But, who knows, perhaps by chronicling my journey, someone else may be inspired to do so as well.  You never know what God will grow out of the seeds we plant.

So, this week, there seemed to be a theme that hit me that I think I need to explore more deeply.  When I was discussing what it meant to be a deacon with my pastor, he reminded me that beyond the ministerial role of a deacon (serving at mass, weddings, baptisms, funerals, etc), there is an evangelical side to being a deacon.  St. Stephen, one of the first deacons, was stoned to death for proclaiming the Gospel and enraging the religious leaders of his time with his "blasphemy".  Later in the week, I was listening to a Catholic podcast that talked about the "new evangelization" and proclaiming the Gospel in our modern world.

It seemed to me that God was trying to tell me something about that.  I've always believed in living the Gospel as best I can and being an example to others.  I've said before the best way to preach the faith is to live it genuinely.  But should I be doing more?  I know there was at least one occasion that I saw a Facebook post that was critical of Christians in general and I thought I should say something but didn't. I don't recall the exact post but it was along the lines of mocking Christian belief as being for the simple or uneducated.

I also read an interesting piece by Bishop Fulton Sheen from his weekly television program for the 60's called "A Life Worth Living".  It was about tolerance.  I'm sure I'll get it wrong, but the essence is that we tolerate what is evil, or at least not good.  We would never say we tolerate something good, we celebrate good things.  But if we tolerate something, that means we in some way to not agree with what we are tolerating.  At it's heart, it gets to the definition of Truth.  There can only be one Truth, and Catholics believe that Truth is found in the teachings of the Church.

So where am I going with this?  There's so much discussion in our world today about tolerance.  We need to be tolerant of other opinions, lifestyles, etc.  And yet, by definition, being tolerant means that we don't agree in some way.  We don't tolerate the Truth because the Truth is our yardstick for measuring our lives and how we should live it.  There's so much division in our society these days.  Is it because we tolerate too much?  Much has been said and written about relative morality in our society.  I'm firmly convinced that our times are much like the times that Jesus walked the earth.  I think we need to turn back to God and focus on what Jesus taught us to make this world a better place.

I'll finish by stating some things I'm thankful for this week.  I'm definitely thankful for my friends.  I had a chance to be with my group of high school friends when one of them got married this weekend.  It was wonderful to see the joy in her face.  And it was great catching up with and seeing people I've know since I was 14.  I'm also thankful for my family.  Nick's graduation party was this weekend and from the little to the big the were a blessing in making the day just right.  I'm also thankful for the gifts God has given my and was reminded today to make sure I nurture and use my gifts in the service of others, not just for myself.