Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Where Is the Freedom and the Joy?

How appropriate for this blog post is today's Scripture from 1 Corinthians 12:12-21!~

 "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
"Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispens- able, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.
"Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way,"


Where is the freedom and the joy?  What is the still more excellent way?  What are the greater gifts for which we are to strive?

Where is the freedom and the joy? was a question recently asked of a dear friend.  She had admitted that she and her husband (both elderly and life-long Catholics) had been shunned and treated coldly, and their son and his wife mistreated, in their town's two parishes.  She assumed it was due to their having moved there (now years ago) from another state.  Outsiders, she said. 

The situation came to a point in which she had more upset being among the other parishioners than good for the soul.  She and her husband have not been back.  But she said when they visit their adult daughters who live in different cities, they are welcomed and find parishes with healthy and vibrant priests and parishioners who are loving and charitable.  She also commented that she and her husband now pray together and have devotions more than they ever had, together, daily.

She repeated how horribly this "nothing" had been treated in those same two parishes in the hometown.  But as a convert, it seemed more reasonable (if that is the correct word to explain lack of charity) that parishioners would react negatively to someone new in their midst.  "Nothing" was and yet is horrified that this deeply Christian, warm and loving older woman was put through the grinder. 

Man's inhumanity to man is alive and thriving within the Church.

However, the woman is heartened by the fact that she and her husband can attend Mass in loving parishes with active and focused priests, when they visit their daughters.  And she recalls the parish and priest where they lived prior to moving to the new location 20 or more years ago.  This woman always repeats, when we talk on occasion, that "nothing" was the only person who approached her and spoke and included in a couple of outreach ministries that "nothing" was inspired by the Lord to develop.  Ah, yes, those little efforts were met with eventual ousting.  This woman commented how vicious in particular, was one of the priests toward "nothing."  She said she always felt the people's issues had to do with their envy.  Not sure of that, personally, but this was her assessment.

So it goes.  And the wondrous aspect of it all, is that this woman is touched.  She has always stood out as charitable and spiritual, as warm and especially anointed, spiritually.  Surely this is part of why the fearful ones have reacted negatively.  It is difficult for people of a certain mindset and way of being, to accept the occasional "feathers on the breath of God" who sometimes float into their midst.

In the history of the Church, such people are dotted through the centuries and through the parishes and monasteries.  Names come to mind, one after another, of those who were called to something more and in different ways.  As the old spiritual father used to tell "nothing", it is as if the farmer has put a marker on one of the chicks, and the others do all they can to peck it to death because they sense it is "different."

However, this aspect of humanity sensing and fearing what is different or "touched", can sometimes unfold in positive ways.  Consider Joseph whose brothers were envious and found him to be the dreamer and different. They sold him into slavery.  In a different location and in different circumstances, Joseph was desirable and useful to the Pharoah.  It all worked out for good and in God's will and ultimate purposes.  Joseph had a certain vocation.

And that leads to the current situation of discerning God's will in "nothing's" continued seeking to fit in to parishes in a viable and giving way.  Just is not going to unfold, and this was foretold many years ago when in the first parish.  In a dream, nothing was desperately trying to catch up with, to join in, the parishioners who were off in the distance, entering a "plane".  Nothing tried in vain to reach them, but exhaustion, pain, and eventually getting stuck in mud resulted in a collapse on the edge of a beautiful expanse of green meadow.  Off in the distance could be seen the parishioners as a large and cohesive group, boarding the plane, and "nothing" had not a chance left to reach them.

Three ancient-looking desert fathers came along, drifting more than walking, across the lush, green grass in the meadow, not far from where "nothing" knelt, mud-covered and depleted from fruitless efforts in joining the parishioners.  The three men, dressed in flowing, off-white tunics, their long, white beards flowing also, rather windswept but all about only stillness, pointed and spoke.

They turned their heads back toward the distant plane with the parishioners boarding it, and they said, "You do not belong with them.  You are to remain here with us, and we will teach you."

This same message was given several years later, again in a dream, in which Mary and Martha beckoned "nothing" to enter a room which mystically appeared off a corridor of a school building.  It was a room that was not visible to others, in general.  They spoke, also.  "Stay here with us, and we will teach you."  (It was rather amazing to note that both Mary and Martha were contemplatives, which makes sense, because both are now on the other side, in heaven, and there is no "being busy or concerned about many things" in heaven.  We will all be contemplatives then and there.)

Regarding the conversation the other day with the parish employee, and reflecting upon previous reactions of wariness to what "nothing" would offer to assist or do, it is not so much a matter of priests and parishioners being fearful and wary of someone who they perceive as different, or to topics that are beyond the more safely temporal topics, including more basic books being read for discussion groups, or more secular programs--all safe and accommodating to the common denominator.  Perhaps that is the best for parishes in some ways, at least safe and not going to rock any boats or stir coals.  It suits the desires, perhaps, of the general populace of Catholics.

What is significant is to grasp when one does not fit into such a scenario.  It simply means one fits into some other scenario.  And in the night, when reminded of the three desert fathers, and reminded of Mary and Martha, and also of a visit from an earthly dad after he was on the other side but came to give three messages, the messages of each and all were the same content.  "You don't belong in that world, with the others.  You belong in a different setting.

This is all about the eremitic vocation, the hermit existence, whether termed hermit or something other, such as St. Joseph LaBre called himself a wandering pilgrim.  In essence and substance, he was a hermit who wandered until he settled in Rome and lived as a homeless man, yet a very religious and spiritual homeless man.  He lived as Jesus lived, no pillow for his head nor place to call "home."

Not all hermits (in fact, probably not many) have interactive lives with parishes.  Those who do, well and good.  It must be God's will for the unfolding of their vocations. But for most hermits and also for mystics, historically and realistically, they were not embraced by nor accepted in parishes. They just don't belong to "that world."  They don't fit in, and there are many reasons for it, and good reasons.

It is not a negative--nothing to berate the parishioners or priests for being unyielding.  It is a positive for the person who does not fit neatly into that paradigm or structure.  Jesus certainly did not fit into the temple world of His days on earth.  Yet others did fit, and that is positive and good.

Yes, it has to do with vocation, and what is God's will and purpose and the means and ways of how He wishes a soul in a person on this earth to grow and bloom.

We will each and all be utilized spiritually if we desire to please God, to be in His will, and to love God and others as He loves us.

As for "nothing" and parishes, or for any of those who did not fit in, they were always utilized by God for His good purposes.  There is nothing wrong about parish employees and priests being wary or in having set ways of wanting things to be.  Much of that has to do with leadership and management styles. Much has to do with individual temperaments and personalities, and a lot has to do with faith and risk-taking, and also what the person in charge of others experiences in his or her own spiritual lives.  It has a lot to do with comfort zones and comfort levels.  None of this is wrong or bad.

But for those who are floaters, not dockers, who are more like "feathers on the breath of God" than stones set in concrete for a lovely mosaic, the former belong to the freedom and joy of His Real Presence's stairway to heaven than in any active aspect of a parish setting.

Up high, painting the shingle siding, tediously brushing in between each crevice between shingles, so much gets worked out in reasonable fashion, with the Holy Spirit.  All makes sense, and no one person or way is better or worse than another.  They are just different, with different purposes and different ways of being and different outcomes.

There is freedom and joy in different settings and circumstances.  The hermit life allows for variation and depth of spiritual seeking, and in spiritual finding.  There is freedom and joy in this vocation, and God knows what He is doing when He calls a relatively few to the hermit life.  Yet the relatively few who have this vocation regardless of designation in church terms, understand the necessary discernment regarding parishes and parish life, and whether or not his or her hermit vocation has much or little or no active or visible involvement.

In this "nothing" Catholic hermit's current unfolding, there is to be no active or visible involvement in parishes.  All the utilization will be done in a hidden, spiritual and prayerful existence.  This is Patmos, after all, and for whatever time or for the rest of "nothing's" earthly time, the "parish" will be with the three desert fathers, or with Mary and Martha, or not of that world, but of this other world in which the freedom and joy is unmistakable.

Mystically, of course, and in essence, there is a parish connection, very much so.  We are all connected as souls in the Body of Christ:  through, with and in Him.  This is where there is freedom, joy, and the peace that passes all understanding and is Christ's peace bequeathed upon us.

God bless His Real Presence in all of us!  Little children, let us love one another, for God Is Love!

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