Warning indulgent post as I talk about myself
This year continued to be a year of transitions for me.
I found this C.S. Lewis quote to be fairly accurate for me.
“Grief is not, as I thought, a state but a process: like a walk in a winding valley which gives you a new landscape every few miles.” (Letter to Dom Bede Griffiths, O.S.B.)
I never quite know when tinges of grief will come to me — triggers regarding specific dates and places I expected. The sporadic suddenness of grief sometimes leaves me unprepared. Mostly I live in the more abstract reality of this. Daily prayers for the repose of her soul I never forget to do. Praying the Divine Mercy chaplet for her and others is also a daily occurrence. Still, I often feel this more as a responsibility than as an active entering into the reality of the Communion of Saints. I know my limitations and am joyful that I do intellectually accept this reality and that this is an area where doubt does not intrude.
Tending to be rather bookish I can too easily stay at home and amuse myself. Trying to overwhelm loneliness, by distracting myself. I just never expected to be without my wife. I always figured I would die first. In reaction to my tendencies, I have been working on getting out of myself and not just let the world pass by.
Last year I made efforts to anchor myself within my parish. I felt like an interloper. Attending events, but not knowing anybody even casually. So this year I wanted to correct this. I had signed up for the Christ Renews His Parish Retreat mainly to get to know some people in my parish. I rather dreaded the retreat itself since I suspected phony team-building and other aspects not favorable to being an introvert.
So I was quite delighted to find that this retreat was not what I feared and it was filled with witnessing and men making an effort to draw closer to Christ and his Church. At the time I had no idea that bi-weekly meetings were part of this and I thought it was a one-time thing. I have indeed found myself looking forward to these meetings. As I have come to know better the people in my team I have come to respect them all the more. I feel grateful to be some part of their journeys.
One aspect of the meetings I struggle with is my own “know-it-all” pride and the temptation to afflict others with this. Since I have come into the Church, I have been doing so much reading regarding the faith along with consuming so much Catholic media. So I have been absorbing knowledge from others for years with limited avenues to talk about the faith. I was kind of like a pressure cooker building up with knowledge and my love of the Church. So I inflict my team members with what I have learned, but too often having something to say. To be fair to myself part of this is because I do love talking about the faith, but am also very aware of my intellectual pride. I know what gifts I do have I should use for Christ’s glory, I do not want to fool myself regarding my mixed motives. Even admitting this is a temptation to pride “Look at how he accuses himself.”
The reason this blog came about in the first place was part of that same pressure cooker build up. I just needed to express what I was learning. One thing I have been very thankful for this year is the multiple times’ people have reached out to me letting me know how my blog at some point helped them. It was quite humbling to take the Balaam’s Ass role in this. To receive a number of these unsolicited thanks during this specific year was an affirmation given to me that I was not just fumbling pridefully in the dark.
There have been other signs of God working in my life. I am a man of routines and can get very static in those daily routines. There are some various positive aspects regarding this, but it also limits some growth. Around the time of my conversion, I am especially drawn to Carmelite spirituality. So for a couple of years, I was attending meetings with a local OCDS group. Life intruded on my attending these meetings, and the group broke up after my first pastor died. When I saw in my parish bulletin notices for an OCDS group meeting there, I put it into the back of my mind to possibly attend. I finally got around to visiting and this has become an essential step for me as it has challenged me.
As a man of routine, my daily prayer walks involving the Rosary, Divine Mercy chaplet, and intercessory prayers were my God punchcard. I don’t want to diminish how this is an integral part of my prayer life, just that it can become a mere habit than developing a further friendship with God. So being back with the Carmelite group and dedicating myself to thirty minutes of contemplative prayer daily made me structure my life to make this part of my routine (without being just routine). Part of my God punchcard was making it to Eucharistic Adoration twice-a-week. I am blessed that now I can go daily. The parish I attend daily Mass on my way into work has perpetual adoration, so now I show up an hour earlier. My parish also has Eucharistic Adoration during the week for limited hours (although they are expanding hours in January), so I go there too. A dedicated Perpetual Adoration Chapel within reasonably short driving distance rounds out my opportunities. I might suck at contemplative prayer, but as Chesterton said: “That if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” Jesus is worth the effort.
This year also marked a year of attending conferences. I wrote previously about my experience going to the Chesterton Conference in Orlando and Catholic Answers Conference on Faith and Science. Greatly enjoyed both of these experiences and the people I met. I plan to attend the same conferences in 2019. The Chesterton Conference led me to seek out going to monthly Chesterton Society meetings. Unfortunately, none are local, so I end up driving to Orlando. The drive is worth it. I was impressed with the members of the Orlando group I met at the conference and have totally enjoyed the meetings. Plus how could I not love people who love Chesterton?
A final aspect of this year’s journey has been my Latin Mass experience. In early 2017, I started to attend the Latin Mass and was later asked to join the choir. This year I have gotten to know a little better those also attending. There has been an effort made to bring us together and to work together to promote the Latin Mass within the parish along with planning for the future. I do love to sing and having to learn Gregorian Chant has stretched my abilities. This forces me to practice, especially as the other members of the choir are much more talented than Ib (not false humility). Somehow I got roped into leading the Rosary in Latin before Mass. This was indeed not a plan of my introvert nature. I was super nervous the first time doing this and was worried about how others would react. I did a lot of practicing listening to the Rosary in Latin so I would not butcher it too much. Later it was requested we sing the Salve Regina at the end. Back to practicing countless times. Pretty happy though as to how others have joined in and integrated this into parish life. That it still happens when I am unable to attend.
So this has been a year of stepping out along with being asked to do things. Volunteering goes against my natural tendencies, but I am better for doing so.
Next year I am going to nail humility and perfect it.