Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Walking in the Dark

Holding onto patience wearing thin,
I can't force these eyes to see the end...
This time we're not giving up,
Let's make it last forever.
--Paramore, "Hallelujah"

I've come to an understanding that this summer is meant to be a period of stretching for me.

My grandmother, with whom I am very close, had a major health setback early in June that made me wonder how long she'll be with us. She's semi-recovered and back home now, but the two weeks cumulatively she's spent in the hospital has changed her somewhat, and put incredible strain on my family, especially my mother.

I've lost touch with my confessor since he left us, and for reasons I'd rather not get into here, I can't go see him. When things are as crazy as they have been lately, it's incredibly difficult knowing I can't just visit and talk things out.

And, of course, I'm leaving home in just over a month. I find that my emotions are oscillating wildly through this, and it's getting worse as August 30th comes closer. Sometimes I'm giddy with excitement at the new things I'll experience, people I'll meet, and how busy I'll be. Other days, my mom in the kitchen or my dad coming home after work makes me incredibly sad. It's a feeling of "I'm not going to hear this all the time now." Sure, I'm going to be home on the weekend more often than not, but it doesn't change that I'll soon be turning the only life I know upside down yet again--the first time being the day I came back to the Church. ;)

The certainty I once had about my life, my career, my vocation, and God's will has been taken away from me. I no longer know where I belong, or what to do next.

At first, I rebelled at this revelation with anger. Why now, when I'm about to make such a big change? Why now, when I've been so happy for the past three years? Why now, when I crave certainty and confidence more than ever before?

Perhaps I've answered my own question. "For power is made perfect in weakness," St. Paul says.

"You are my strength when I am weak."

"When we are weak, that is when He best shows His strength in us."

Perhaps God is using this transition to get under my skin, to shake me out of my comfortable complacency and reach instead my heart that so often has its own ideas how things should go. By taking away all of my grand possibilities, He has forced me to take my eyes off the splitting roads ahead of me and instead, focus them on Him.

So far, I've failed pretty miserably at that, but there is always time to try again. I may have no idea where I'm headed anymore, but He does. The trick now is to live by Scripture which says "Even when I walk through the dark valley, I will fear no evil."

My pastor asked me to focus on seeking the next step, rather than trying to plan out the entire course of my life today. That next step is perhaps the only thing I know is going right: my education. I need to set myself up for a career with which I can support myself, and if I can help it, use for God.

Right now, I really am walking through the dark. All I can do is take His hand and trust that He'll lead me wherever I'm supposed to be.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I'm Listening

Leaving this here, as one of my adopted priests asked me to reflect on it. If he ever reads this, thanks, Father B.!

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. And if you will not speak, I will continue to listen.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Simple and Clean

"If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?'

. . . But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil."

--St. Matthew 6:30-34 (NAB)

Today is the feast day of Maria Goretti, and so, in taking her as my patroness six years ago, it became my feast day, too. I'm not going to tell her story again, considering I did so last year. This year, I have something different to think about.

Lately, my central goal has been obedience. I still feel directionless in a lot of ways, and am struggling with a great deal of anxiety in trying to discern God's will for my life, especially where my vocation is concerned. I always thought that, when the time was right, God would give me a sign to let me know that I was going in the right direction and making the right choices. God has done that before, loudly, and I still feel that He'll do so again, if He wants to. Somehow, though, I don't think I'm going to be so lucky this time. As my pastor once said, it isn't free will if God is forcing us into doing things His way. I just wish I knew what His way was! My future is uncertain; I have desires, sure, at times very powerful ones, but I have no idea if following them is what I'm supposed to do. (Please, if you're reading this, take a second to pray for my clarity!)

A while back, I was considering where my life is headed, and where I'd like to see it go, when Maria came to mind. Everyone tends to look at her as the epitome of purity and chastity, and it seems that at times, Catholics value her more for the way that she died than the way that she lived.

St. Maria was a simple girl. (Yet another sign that she and I were meant to be partners.) She never concerned herself with worldly affairs, but rather spent her days praying, watching her siblings, and helping her family on the farm. That was her life, and really, you could see what it did for her faith. She, like many other young saints, begged to receive the Eucharist before she was considered old enough, and the day she did for the first time was the happiest in her life. There was nothing else going on to trouble her before Alessandro began his advances, and even if there was, it wouldn't have brought her down. Her focus was on Christ, not on this world. In every sense, she lived by what God told St. Paul as he begged for the Lord to take from him the thorn in his flesh: "My grace is suffiecient for you."

His grace was enough for Maria. She had need for nothing else. With that innocence and perfect embodiment of the childlike faith we're called to--and indeed, she was only a child--her life was for the most part a peaceful one.

That's what I should be doing this summer, as difficult as it may be for me: learning to be humbler, simpler, and more trusting that God is with me and will not abandon me. I need to believe with more confidence that as long as I try to seek His will with my whole heart, He'll lead me to it, whatever it is. Like Maria, I shouldn't worry about tomorrow, because it will take care of itself. I'm going to talk to my priests in the coming months--all three of them (my confessor can't even get rid of me by being reassigned, poor guy)--and I'm going to let go.

Fearful as I am, I'm going to surrender. I can't keep stumbling in the dark hoping to come out the right door. He needs to lead me. I can only hope that in following Maria's example, and relying on her prayers, I'll make the right decision, and have peace in my life as well.

St. Maria Goretti, my friend and ally, pray for me, that your innocence might be mine!

Happy feast day. :)