Because in the school of the Spirit,
man learns wisdom through humility,
knowledge by forgetting,
how to speak by silence,
how to live by dying.
-Johannes Tauler

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Learning Deeper

Wow. Praise God for all the lessons we are learning this year.
As I read Julie’s last post, it sparked the memory of a conversation a couple weeks ago about this very thing. I was challenged (within the conversation) to consider what it truly means to take a vow of poverty – practically speaking. This friend opened my eyes to an element of that vow I had never considered: it requires the charity of others.
Because we know charity is love, what Julie says is so profound – asking for help, for charity, is allowing others the opportunity to love us, and maybe, in return, we are giving them some of our love by reaching out with open hands. That takes humility, and as Thomas Dubay says in Happy Are You Poor, "Detachment is one-half...; humility is the other. Poverty is related to both." My, how we are learning.
I am discerning the call to religious life and almost constantly in my prayers am I asking God if that is truly how He would like me to live and serve Him. As I trudge through the months, begging for an answer, I can always look back and see that even when I have felt stagnant in my journey, indeed, the Lord has been drawing me closer to Him and molding my heart in preparation for whatever is to come. 
Now, with the new experience of a third-world mission trip breaking the horizon, I wonder how God will call me deeper into this 'experiment' of poverty. Down in Haiti, poverty is no experiment. It is a very grave reality, and having only ever lived and traveled in first-world countries, I anticipate this journey will prompt some change in my own life. 
In some ways, I wonder if I will not be called to a new level of poverty. Dubay spends a chapter on the various levels of poverty, and comments, "The circumstances of some persons call for a more drastic self-denial than those of others." That certainly has gotten me thinking...
Those who know me know I have a flair for the dramatic, and over the past couple days, I've been reflecting on the "all or nothing" attitude I gravitate towards in life. St. Augustine says something I have always found to be true: "Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation." Knowing that I have radical tendencies, I am extremely curious how my time in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere will affect me. Already, I am deeply moved just from reading a book my dad has passed on to me by Louise Perrotta called All You Need To Know About Prayer You Can Learn From The Poor, which contains short interviews and stories about people who live and/or mission in Jamaica or Haiti. 
It's true that reading about the reality these missionaries and natives live every day is far different from living it alongside them, but I can't help but think what riches will await these poor in heaven - they are so faithful to God in the midst of their misery. The thoughts of such rewards prompt me to ask the Lord: "What must I do? I hear You saying to me as You said to the young man, "Go, sell what you have, and give to (the) poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." (Mark 10:21) But, Lord, how much must I give to the poor? Even my life? Is that how I am to follow You?"
I [try to] patiently await the day when these smoldering questions erupt into the leaping flames of knowledge and purpose that will propel me deeper in my love for service to Christ. + 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Watch it

This morning I thought my watch broke. Crisis in the making. I was in the elevator at work (yes, we have to take the elevator for security - no option for stairs, ok??) and I looked down and my watch said 5:30am. I thought, we'll maybe it just needs the battery wound. Tried that. Nothing. Then I thought, we'll I'll just go buy a new battery after work.

HELLO! Not allowed. Then of course, I went through, in my mind all the people I could ask that might have an extra watch around and came up with a pretty good list and that was the end of that. I looked down a few hours later and it had started ticking again.

There's not really a point to that story, i.e. I don't think it was a miracle. I certainly hadn't given up my attachment to the watch at that point, but after reading some of Missy's posts tonight I'm left with a new perspective on what we might have to do at some point this year - humble ourselves and ask for help.

Often I think we become dependent on doing things ourselves, thinking 'oh I don't want to bother them' or 'It'll just get done faster if I do it myself.' But we miss the boat on that one. Sometimes it takes a great deal to ask for help when we really do need it, whether it be monetarily or spiritually. The people we love, of course, are always there for us, just waiting for us to stop being stubborn and open our eyes. I think the same can be said for God - he's just dying to shower us with his love.

And when we go out of ourselves to ask for help, we have another chance to grow in our relationships with others. Even if it's just an excuse call Mom and see if there's an extra watch lying around, maybe she is having a really bad day and the sound of one of her children would cheer her up.

A new battery won't do that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

a great invitation

As if God could hear in the depths of my heart (a place where I often cannot distinguish what is being said) that I wanted something more than simply the challenge of not buying anything, He has invited me to experience a deeper level of poverty. For this, I am humbled and very grateful. 

I was invited last week to join a mission team of young adults that will travel to Haiti for one week in May. Our mission is this (as stated in the informational handout from Fr. Rick Nagel, our fearless leader) :
To be Christ to our Haitian brothers and sisters and to seek Christ in the poor.
To bring the HOPE of Christ to a suffering people of God.
To grow missionary hearts for the poorest of the poor.
To raise up Catholic Young Adults as future mission leaders.
To build relationships between [Indy young adults] and 3 Haitian Parishes/Villages and seek ways to learn from one another and support one another.
To learn more about the Catholic Social Justice Teaching of having a preference for the poor.
To answer Pope Benedict's call to provide relief to a growing population of starving and uneducated children and families in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. 

As this is not beautiful enough, an extremely generous anonymous benefactor has donated the costs necessary for this mission team to form! Without that gift, I would not be able to accept the honor of being among fellow young adults on this adventure that has already deeply moved me - I can only imagine how the stirrings in my heart will grow as we prepare and then participate in this journey! 

There is another dimension to this tale. 

I was uncertain whether I could even dream of saying 'yes' to Fr. Rick's invitation because of a tiny little part of my life: my full-time job. I do not, and will not by May, have enough vacation time to take off a week from work. After praying for God to send an answer, I approached my bosses with my situation, inquiring if there was anything that could be done.
Without hesitation, the owner of the company I work for said it would be no problem if I simply took the week off unpaid. My direct boss had no problem either, and even mentioned he might like to help out with something like this.

I wanted to jump for joy!! 

As I considered what this meant, I was filled with even more gratitude, because I came to two conclusions. 1) One week without pay while require some creativity for my budget that month, and this will perhaps call me forward to experience, not just in Haiti but in my own life as well, a greater sense of solidarity with the poor. I am happily anticipating this challenge. 2) My happy anticipation is largely rooted in the knowledge that while my budget is tight (as all young adults might say), it can withstand a one-time loss of one week's pay...this alone fills me with a great sense of thankfulness for the blessings God has showered upon me over the past year. 

There is so much to say, but I will save it for another time. 
Much is to come in the next couple months. +

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

and now...God speaks through crackers.

There are days when I get in the 'poverty' mindset where it becomes something of an obsession to purge my life of anything unnecessary.  I think it's the feeling I get from being cleansed - there is something immensely freeing and fulfilling in discarding the unnecessary, and likewise in using something to its full potential, and then laying it to rest, if you will. 
An example would be finishing off a box of crackers. It provides the surety that you no longer have old crackers in the cabinet, yet it does something more because in freeing up that little bit of space in the cabinet, there is now room for something new, something perhaps better. 
The same is true of life and the spirit. In freeing life from unnecessary noise or distractions, there is room for something new, almost certainly something better, and that is God. He comes and speaks in silence, in our nothing, and when we create that space for Him, there is a guarantee that He will fill it with more than we could ever imagine. 

I'm finding truth in this poverty, and as we know in our hearts, the truth will set us free. +