Saturday, December 31, 2016

Catholic Hermit: Peace of Christ

Yesterday's optional first reading at Mass from the Living Word of God, continues to inspire my hopeful thoughts.  I consider that much of the time, I really do not have what I'd consider "peace"--and especially that it controls my heart.  But perhaps I am mistaken?

I doubt it, other than if I am confusing the peace of Christ with some other idealistic type of unattainable peace.  And, I just might be expecting an idealism in peace, an unrealistic form of peace something akin to "feeling" that all is wonderful, that all is acceptable and fine.

I don't think I possess that kind of peace, nor does it control my thoughts, and maybe not my heart.  And yet the Word mentions the peace of Christ controlling our hearts.  The peace of Christ may be something different than my notion or understanding of peace.  I suppose there can be a peace that is not the peace of Christ--and that other peace is where my idealism interferes with reality.

Today, the last day of this calendar year but already over a month into the liturgical new year, this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit will brave the cold downstairs of this hermitage.  I will quickly dress and climb the ladder to the warmer upstairs and continue with bits of drywall hanging and begin scraping 112-year-old painted newspapers that was pasted onto wood plank ceiling, and in the 1920's thick, gauze-backed wallpaper was tacked to the ceiling.  Thick wallpaper is removed, but many tacks need tedious removal.

While in the manual work mode, I will ponder the peace of Christ.  I have some questions to ask the Lord about His peace; and I very much want His peace to control my heart.  Maybe it does, but I doubt it.  I doubt it not just because I don't always feel it--and maybe that is the problem.  

Perhaps Christ's peace in our hearts is not something we "feel."  I'd like to think we can feel it; sometimes it seems as if I have felt peaceful deep in.  But that seems to be in times when my physical pain is not so high, or when there has been some spiritual insight that draws me in, or when something even in the temporal goes particularly well.

Last evening I received a phone call from a pediatrician friend of the past.  Used to be a neighbor--used to be before my moving after my now-adult daughters went off to college.  House seemed emptier and different with my son and me in there.  Plus, I had financial unrest--not peace controlling my heart or mind, I'd say--for helping with college costs and loss of child support made income matters tough.  

Yet also, it was such a lovely home, and I was not at peace with being in a lovely home that I thought would require more stress on finances with upkeep than would a lesser home.  And I was deep into starting a marvelous soup kitchen for those needing a touch of love, that was growing by leaps and bounds.  My heart was not so much in a house, then; and I saw personally the poor and felt uncomfortable with my differential.

However, now it comes out that my son (and I suppose daughters)--all adults--wonder; and the son, at least, has some anger over my selling that house and the major downgrade and of more moves in the next few years.  The financial relief was good, but I got into a mess of a house.  This time a Catholic realtor failed to check a box that would have given me an "out" once there was an inspection.  And I wanted out after the inspection revealed multiple problems yet could not legally get out of the sale.  

I could have sued the realtor; but instead I worked five years on that place--mostly cosmetic but included new roof, windows, siding and furnace--and kitchen.  Structure was fine, even noble, and the rest involved painting, patching, and wallpapering, redoing floors--lots of creative fun, actually.  But it was not the home we'd had, and we existed in adaptation mode.  

Then with son off to college and daughters married and away living their lives, and my mother near death, that house seemed too large.  The neighborhood became less stable, and lots of not-good had occurred with parishioner uproar and gossip regarding this mystic hermit.  While many Catholics were irked and gossiped, others secretly looked to me for spiritual guidance and friendship.  It was tricky in a hometown I'd returned to and converted to Catholicism. Changing churches among people who have strong feelings about religion was not such a peaceful transition.

So then to a larger city, and that is yet more a story of unfortunate settling into a house without realizing--not heeding the dream warnings--that it was going to be a rough road ahead.  Was not long before a mentally ill neighbor became obsessed with me, and her husband and adult son were deep into their dysfunction.  Lived with that lack of peace--death threats, harassment, stalking--for several years until my family and the sheriff deputy urged me to move before my protective order was to run out.

Not a peaceful existence there, although I had comfort and financial stability and a most glorious garden that was ever-so-peaceful to gaze upon.  It's just that when I'd go outside, I'd have to contend with the unknowns of the neighbor lady--cursing, telling her son to shoot his gun over at me, blowing a loud horn out her window, standing on deck in a stare-down mode...and so much more.  Yet, I learned to act as if I did not notice (but the gun-shooting thing did have me fake-calmly beeline into the house).

Anyway, the phone call from the earlier on pediatrician neighbor in the lovely home I'd had built for us after a judge in another state let us make our escape from a harassing and costly existence post-divorce and post-disabling car accident, brought up more thoughts and feelings last night.  The former neighbor was thrilled to have found me, as we'd lost touch. She updated on how loving the neighbors--nearly all still in that cul-de-sac, and that I should never have moved.  

That point came up, and I concurred.  In the conversation it all seemed so...peaceful...there.  I realized that back then, when I thought I had not the finances to handle maintaining the degree necessary of a beautiful home, it was not so peaceful within me. With my spiritual purpose shifting, my son entering high school and money then to send to a private school, and to help pay for a daughter's study year abroad--I made the move!  

So last night while the thought of how I should have just stayed there, this morning I did not at all have peace about what if I'd stayed in that house.  It might have kept my family bonded in coming back "home" to visit--maybe-- and would not have uprooted the son; but at the time he did not seem to mind. We lived closer to a friend of his in that move, and he could have guitar lessons and have the basement as his studio, and the attic was transformed into a television room, and we could afford a car for him to drive to the Catholic private high school, and later was money to help him with college.

I suppose the lack of peace has to do with myself.  Part of it is pain.  Pain does not make one feel at peace.  And lack of peace has to do with the mind, as well, as thoughts can enter in, such as the conversation last evening that brought back memories and in which the pediatrician expressed how wonderful all the neighbors are to one another.  Sounds good compared to my situations along the way.  However, this morning the reality of how it would have been to have stayed--not a peaceful thought.  

Financial stress is not peaceful.  Guilt of too much privilege is not peaceful, at least not to me.  I think of the poor and of how Jesus lived His life on earth.  Yet this hardship life here while more like Jesus in the cold, or when there was no bathroom in here or rain coming in--I realized quickly I am not nearly of Jesus' strength and peace of heart!

The peace of Christ is something other than temporal, that is for sure.  And somehow if I can begin to fathom the peace of Christ, I will have answers as to how it might be, and how it is to have His peace control my heart.

I admit, it does sound wonderful, and I want His peace controlling my heart, very much.  I so want the peace of Christ to control my heart!  And it is Christ's peace, Paul the Apostle writes, that called us into one body.  One body of Christian believers:  His peace in our hearts calls us to love one another, to be for one another.  

I do love hearing that the neighbors in that cul-de-sac are loving to one another, helping each other out on a daily basis, making the pediatrician's life far better after the death of mother--and children now adults. Yes, that sounds very good, and I think all that love holds the secret to Christ's peace.  

And the cul-de-sac neighbors are of different churches--Protestant and Catholic, with a now-older Protestant couple doing the bulk of the outreach.  Good, loving people, and the others, including the Catholic pediatrician, reciprocate and enter into the charity.  Yes, that has something to do with why hearing about the neighborhood gives a peace in the heart which I think is Christ's peace.  

Thinking about love and hearing about love feels peaceful. 

But for me, I am not there, not in that situation. Nor are you, dear readers, although some of you may have His peace controlling your hearts.  And I'd think if I had Christ's peace controlling my heart, perhaps I'd be at peace in far more comfortable living conditions or would not be bothered by financial insecurity. 

However, surely Christ's peace controlling our hearts must not be simply tied to a situation nor to certain people.  There is something mystical about Christ's peace controlling our hearts--yet with concrete results evident.  And those results are love, I am pretty sure.  

And the love in the heart hopefully alters the thoughts to a peaceful loving and positivity.  I hope so, anyway.  But I do think that negative situations and hurtful ones, and unloving, uncaring persons as well as physical pain do challenge the heart's receptivity to Christ's peace.  I suppose it is the mind that gets in the way, most.  And it is the situations and people that we are in and around that can alter the mind and hinder Christ's peace in our hearts.  

Being shunned by parishioners is not conducive, nor is being around those who do not love.  Of course, one must love first or at least participate in love.  I think that is why Jesus said if you offer your peace to others and it is not returned by them, shake off the dust from your sandals as a testament against them and move on to the next place.  

The neighbors in my current desert are not interested in loving one another.  Some have made it clear, and the one neighbor's inexplicable, recent push-back seems clear enough.  My finances are at all-time low, ever in my long adult life, with perhaps a half year or so remaining for me to finish and sell, or sell unfinished.  Shake the dust from my sandals and move on to the next place.  

Can we truly and always have Christ's peace in our hearts?  Can this be accomplished?  I think so, I hope so, I pray so.

This renewing of some loving contacts of the past, including a widow of a friend in the UK, has brought a sensation in my heart and has brought positive thoughts of such loving people into my mind.  This is all good; it is good to reconnect with love and to reach out to others in love.  And I can continue the efforts here, but I must make sure to shake dust and remove myself physically, mentally, emotionally when required.

Yes, very much, I want to get to the bottom of this matter of the peace of Christ controlling the heart.  I want that more than about anything, I think, this last day of the calendar year.  I want to be thankful, too!  It is all attainable, surely, but maybe with a little key of wisdom. Today I ask and wait for the Lord to explain how--and then for to bring His peace in my heart to fruition.

"And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful."

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