Posts Tagged With: fear

New Year reflections on love and life from a Cajun Catholic missionary

Sunday, January 13, 2013 – Noon thirty pm – Mom and Dad’s house – Lafayette, LA
It’s been awhile since I’ve done a journal entry, and I was startin to feel the itch. My impetus for this particular entry is my friendship with Anne. One of the things I really enjoy about our friendship is that I’m learning so much due to all the talking and discussion that happens between us. While Anne is the only one privy to all of the background stories and discussions, I still want to share these “gems” with y’all.
-“I want the whole truth & nothing but the truth, along with an undivided heart.” Perhaps just as bad as lying is failing to tell the whole truth. Yes, in telling partial truths you can literally say you are not intentionally lying to somebody. You may not even be desiring to lead them astray. But if you don’t give them the whole picture then you bear responsibility for when things go wrong. Related to this would be loving others with an undivided heart. Nothing’s worse than trying to have a discussion with someone who is distracted. If someone does not pay attention to me when I’m trying to have meaningful discussion or interaction with them, if their actions don’t prove to me that I’m important and that they’re focused on me, then I feel gypped. Same thing applies to loving others. If you only seek to fulfill the “minimum requirements of love” (as if such a thing even exists) then you are not going to be able to show that the relationship and the person are important to you. My advice is to do what you have to do, and then do more. The extra effort will be worth it.
-“What’s not a big deal to you may be a big deal to someone else.” We all come from different backgrounds and have different experiences in life. Inevitably your outlook on certain issues will be different than that of those whom you love. That’s why you have to be considerate and take into account what your loved one has gone through, in order for you to be sensitive to how things affect them. A simple joke or a seemingly small issue for you could be something that touches upon a very sensitive area for your loved one. And because you love them, you have to be prepared to pay attention to these small things and act accordingly or avoid them if at all possible.
-“A small deal can become a big deal, in both good ways and bad.” As I stated in the last paragraph, small things that are not heeded can create problems. But it also works for good. A simple note, a quick hello, a little hug, or a meaningful compliment can make the day of the one you love.
-“Daily personal prayer time is a must, no matter how many other spiritual things you do.” Imagine trying to run a car on fumes. Or sustaining a friendship when virtually no meaningful communication exists. That’s essentially what you’re do to your relationship with God when you don’t pray. Aside from that relationship suffering, you also won’t be able to get what you need to live your life lovingly for others. The same can be applied to your relationship with your loved one. Without communication, your relationship will wither and die. And if you don’t relate to God daily in prayer, then you won’t be able to relate to your loved one in the way that you need to.
-“The ugly truth is better than a pretty lie.” Sometimes we are scared to reveal unpleasant truths about ourselves or our pasts for fear that the other person will stop loving us. If they do stop loving you, then it was not the right kind of relationship. However, chances are that they’ll love you anyways, because they can see through the imperfections. But if you hide truths from them, or if you lie about something (even if it’s in a seemingly innocent or protective sort of way) in order to make yourself look better, then your relationship’s foundation is weakened. A pretty lie is still a lie. But an unpleasant truth honestly and freely revealed, is still the truth. Doing that will help you to build trust with the one you love and it will help you to be vulnerable in a way that is good.
-“Loneliness and stress can be cruel masters or great motivators.” Loneliness and stress are two of the leadings causing of people doing dumb stuff. It’s because they focus so much on the problems of loneliness and stress as well as the by-products of these two things, that they lose sight of the solution. Sure it’s easy to wallow in misery and self-pity when stress and loneliness are knockin’ at your door. But just imagine how much better things could be if you allowed these two things to motivate you instead of torment you. Instead of seeking wordly things that will never fill the hole in your heart, allow loneliness and stress to motivate you to do charitable works, or to pray more, or to seek the company of others. If you do this not only will you grow, but your relationship with your loved one will grow as well.
-“Love is a choice that is worth your time and effort.” Sometimes love feels great, both literally and figuratively. But our modern culture lies to us when we are tricked into believing that love always feels good. Love is sometimes hard. Love is sometimes painful. Love is sometimes confusing. It doesn’t just happen. You have to choose it. Yet it’s always worth it. And what is love? Love is doing right and growing closer to God. If you want to show your loved one that you truly care for them, then do right and help them grow closer to God.
-“Trustworthiness and vulnerability go hand in hand.” You cannot trust someone if they cannot open up and be vulnerable with you. On the other hand, you cannot be vulnerable with someone if you cannot trust them. It’s kinda like the chicken and the egg question. I’m not sure which has to come first. I just know you gotta have both.
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Coffee, Contrition, and Clarity

Saturday, September 8, 2012 – 1:10pm – Cafe Central Coffee Haus – Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico

So I’ve been back in General Cepeda for about 2 months now. Earlier this week I realized that even amongst all the down time I’ve had from week to week, I’ve not left town a single time. So I decided to come to Saltillo for a few hours, just to get away. Hopped on the bus, and 35 pesos and 2 hours later I arrived. Having been here many times before, I had no desire to do anything touristy. I just wanted to walk around, explore a tiny bit, and relax.

I’d heard that just down the road from where the bus drops you off, there is a mall. Small, but nice. And the added bonus was stumbling upon this coffee shop. After I walked around the mall, I knew that this was where I’d have my chill time. Spending time at coffee houses is one of my favorite things to do back home. This habit first started during my high school days and cemented itself into my life during my college years. It’s a place and an environment where you can read, study, relax, visit, or people watch.

Did morning prayer from the breviary once I sat down with my frappucino. Also read alot from a book by Ralph Martin, a prominent figure within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. People-watched. Enjoyed the calm, relaxing atmosphere. The soothing hum of the coffee machines, coolers, and various other appliances. Realizing through all of this that we should always have some scheduled down-time, just to relax, refresh, re-energize, and get away for a bit. Also realizing that a key element in living apart from your favorite places and people is to always carry them in your heart. Another key element is to seek out a little taste of home wherever you are. A peaceful coffee shop. A city park. A grocery store. A shopping mall to aimlessly walk around in. These special things and little reminders are a part of who you are and what makes you unique. Embrace them. Rest in the comfort of these little blessings God sends you. They are part of what has made you who you are and gotten you to where you are. I believe in doing this, you will be more genuinely yourself and thus be better able to live and serve where God has you.

Another thing I want to share about is contrition, aka – sorrow for sins. As a Christian the more self-aware I have become, the more I have reflected on this. I feel like I am truly making progress in my spiritual life and that the Lord is helping me to find the proper balance in this area. What follows is a question I posed to several priest friends of mine and their responses. Names have been changed so that you can focus on the answers. And though not worded in exactly the same way, all of the responses essentially and basically say the same thing.

God Bless!
(the following is the question I posed to my priest friends and their responses)

Is it possible to have a healthy fear of sin (a fear that, if healthy enough will get me to the confessional) without feeling sadness or desperation? Another way to phrase the question is, Is it possible to have a healthy fear of sin without being scared of sin?

“My thoughts…Yes. One of the compounding negative effects of sin, especially habitual sin, is despairing emotions/shame. The progress one makes in combating sin is not all lost by a later fall. One truly does get closer to God and grows in his love and grows in trust. A later fall grieves us but our increased trust in God’s mercy dominants our emotional reaction to the sin.” –Fr.K—

“Yes, A healthy fear of sin, is a fear of the distance from God it brings. Being scared of sin means feeling that it’s bigger than God’s Mercy and therefore unforgiveable. count your blessings that you ‘ve been able to move beyond the previous despair. Despair is a trick of the Evil one, to lead you to procrastinate about Confession, to believe less and less in the Mercy of God and more and more of your worthlessness; both are lies. Sin, does not cause you to become worthless in the eyes of God. There’s nothing wrong about you, even if you’ve done something wrong!” –Fr.H—

“I think you are experiencing consolations of seeing some of the progress you’ve made. That is wonderful! I would say: yes, enjoy the good healthy reactions you have but also make sure to guard against the sin of presumption and do not let up in your efforts at self-mastery… Enjoy the consolations AND keep fighting the good fight!” –Fr.S—

“I certainly think so.” –Fr.B—

“I can only give a guess at what’s going on. First, there is a distinction in types of grace. You may have fallen from a state of “sanctifying grace” due to the sin and thus your conscience rightly pricked you making you aware of the fall. Seemingly God has blessed you simultaneously with an “actual grace” of hopefulness and love despite your fallen state. I would guess it was God presenting himself to you through “actual grace” in an attractive manner so that you trust in his future goodness and continue to follow him. You could prayerfully reflect upon this as though you were one of Jesus’ disciples in scripture before his actual death and resurrection. The joy and inspiration they received from his presence would have been more along the lines of “actual grace” (blessings from God) rather than salvific, since he had not yet offered himself in forgiveness of sins. (Of course, Jesus did forgive certain people along the way, but forgiveness was not yet offered to all prior to his death.) [The other alternative interpretation is that the feeling of “being okay” was from another spirit other than God. A way to discern this is reflecting upon whether your impulse at the time was to avoid the things of God (perhaps a subtle sense of joyful passivity and ambivalence to the things of God) or were you being drawn toward God and a deeper awareness of the peace and love that he reveals?]” –Fr.J—

“ the short answer is yes. Feelings are not a necessary part of the spiritual life. The spiritual life resides in “the will,” not “the heart.” And so you ought to have an intellectual fear of the consequence of sin and have the strength of will to avoid sin. If your feelings support those, super good! If they don’t, well that’s not a big deal. It is not necessary to feel sad or even frustrated when you sin. All that is required is contrition – which is an intellectual understanding of the consequence of sin and a disposition of will to make amends. Of course, all that’s very clinical. Unless you’re a robot, your emotions will play a part. Just don’t give them too much power over you. You can be contrite, even when you’re not “feeling it.” And contrition is what you need, not sadness or despair.” –Fr.R—

“Interesting that you ask this because I was talking about it with someone the other day. I think it is possible to have a healthy fear of sin and yet not be given to great sadness or despair in committing sin. Especially with sins that have been habitual to some extent in the past and from which we are trying to purify ourselves, I think we can arrive at a point at which, though we may fall into sin we realize that God is still working with us and trust in His mercy. There’s a book called “Clean of Heart” that is a 50-day meditation on sexual purity. In the introduction it speaks of a similar thing, namely when one falls they ought not too fall into great despair and get overly-consumed with the actions of the past but simply recognize one’s brokenness, bring it before the Lord in confession and continue the battle again. Hopefully that makes some sense.” –Fr.B—

“In a simple answer, it is possible. The more we grow in trust in the Lord the more we also grow in developing a healthy fear of sin. The challenge if one falls though, regardless of the sin, is to never become complacent. In other words, to recognize the seriousness of sin and go to confession as soon as possible, but at the same time not to despair because one has fallen. This comes with developing a healthy fear of the Lord.” –Fr.G—

“First off, I want to congratulate you for cooperating with God’s grace to create ways to protect yourself from sins of impurity. This is the point of confession: not just to shed the guilt of past sins, but (just as importantly) give strength to change these sinful behaviors and to break free from old patterns.

I definitely feel that your new perspective on sin is another a sign of God’s grace affecting your heart and mind.

That “normal” past sense of despair after falling into sin is healthy and necessary in the early stages of spiritual development. As you mentioned, our conscience must be attuned to the evil ugliness of sin and should thrust us into a healthy sense of guilt and remorse as well as compel us to go to confession ASAP. But as we grow and mature in the spiritual life, we should develop a greater sense of confidence in Christ’s victory over our sins.

So… Yes it is possible – and is in fact the goal- “to have a healthy fear of sin (a fear that, if healthy enough will get me to the confessional) without feeling sadness or desperation.” That sense of despair that you used to feel was in some way a lack of confidence in Christ’s power over your sins. This transition in thinking that you’ve described is a transition from worry about what you have done (sin) and what you now have to do (discipline) toward a confidence in what Christ has done (died on the cross/forgiven your sins) and what you and HE together now have to do (cooperate).

So… “Is it possible to have a healthy fear of sin without being scared of sin?”… Yes. Because with Christ by your side there is no reason to fear sin. He has already conquered it. 2000 years ago. It’s done.

This is the transformative power of God’s forgiveness given through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Hope this helps.”

–Fr.M–

“When we realize that sin is not distasteful to God, but that we have messed up our relationship with Him we are usually moved to fix it as soon as possible. Humility tells us that we have more work to do. It is no longer a childish fear, but an adult understanding of what I have to do. We have hurt the One who loves us most and most perfectly. Sorrow is a condition that comes, but in itself does not necessarily give feelings. Instead, it is the movement to get things right.”

–Fr.B–

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Cold Day in the Desert

Friday – 3/9/12 – 2:02pm – On a mountaintop in General Cepeda, Coahuila, Mexico

The moutain we’re on this week is the one right behind La Colonia, which is a neighborhood very close to our casa. In fact, this mountain is close enough that we can walk to it. It is the highest mountain in town, but don’t let that fool you. Climbing time to the top was 15 minutes max. Nonetheless, the view up here is gorgeous. From here we can even see the other mountaintop where we did a Desert Day during La Entrada (Intake) in February. It (the other mountain, not the one i’m on right now) is the mountain that’s right next to the farm that’s owned by the same lady who owns the Las Portales restaurant next to the church in town. Perfect spot to come and pray for Desert Day. Now that I think of it, this is my first “true” Desert Day for me and Luis since we arrived in Mexico over a month ago. It’s just the two of us today.

A few minutes ago as I was reading my Bible, I was at the beginning of the book of Judith. It starts off by saying how King Nebuchadnezzar wanted everyone in the land to basically say and act like “Hey dude, you’re the man and the best ever and so much so that we wanna pay you homage and worship you.” When they didn’t do that, he basically wiped out alot of them, and plundered and terrorized so as to strike fear in their hearts and force them to submit to him and worship him. And that story got me thinking about fear, both good and bad fear. King Nebuchadnezzar’s fear was the bad kind of fear. It’s the fear that makes you afraid, the fear that removes your free will, the fear that FORCES you to submit. Then I got to thinkin’ about the fear of God.

The fear of God, properly viewed, is a GOOD fear. The way I see it, it’s not a fear of death, revenge, or horrible suffering. It’s the fear of offending a love so great, that its’ a love completely unrivaled. THAT’S the kind of fear we should have towards God, and the fear that should be a guiding factor in our lives. It’s a fear that leads us to love, not despair.

We also had a great week this past week. Last Saturday for our free day, me and Luis decided to take a bus to and from Saltillo. We did it because A.) we wanted to learn how to get to and from Saltillo by bus, and B.) so we could walk around town a bit. Our handicapped friend Hugo whom we met in November 2009 on a short term mission trip, was not in his usual spot in front of the Cathedral and the Cathedral was closed. We checked out the market and the surrounding area for awhile before heading to the bus stop on the edge of town where we caught the bus back to General Cepeda. Don’t think we’ll be doing that every week though. Even taking the bus is an expense that really adds up. On Sunday we did morning Mass, and then went to La Puerta, our Sunday rancho visit. We’re gonna visit that rancho on the Sundays we don’t have communion services in other ranchos. The plan is that we’ll do some songs and prayer, lead a reflection on that Sunday’s reading, and close with some more prayer and song. We also continued to integrate more and more into our weekly schedule. We are now in full-swing with our door ministry, home visits, and rancho ministry. I think from here on out it’s just a matter of fine-tuning how we do things and figuring out the best way to minister to people. We’ve also been blessed to be able to go to Daily Mass during the week. This week we’ve also been participating in a series of talks given by the priest in preparation for a Lenten mission that we’ll be giving next week. All in all, we’re experiencing a good balance between busy-ness and rest, and I look forward to things getting better and better.

God Bless!

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Vieux Fort Retreat – Week 1

Team Retreat/Mission Trip – Sisters of St. Francis Convent – Vieux Fort, St. Lucia – May 22-June 7, 2011

Since I will be journaling several times a week, and only posting the collections of these entries once a week as a single missionary blog post, I forewarn you that this entry is VERY long. But I do hope you take the time to read it and enjoy the pictures.

here’s the link to my picture album on facebook, you might need to copy and paste it into your broswer.

Day 1 – Monday, May 23, 2011 – 9:00pm – Upstairs Living Room

I’m sitting here, writing this at the end of our first full day here. We arrived here yesterday around mid-afternoon and spent the afternoon getting settled in, cooking supper, and discussing with the sisters some of the things we would be involved with while we are here. Supper was delicious, and I think God multiplied our pasta, because there’s no way I’d have thought one pan of pasta would be enough to feed 5 adults and 10 kids, but somehow it did. I also really enjoyed chatting with Sr. Francis. We chatted yesterday and today about all kinds of things: ministry, culture, missionary work, etc… It’s nice to have somebody that I can talk to and discuss things. After night prayer, me, Sister Francis and some of the kids played Rummikub, a board game based off of the card game rummy. It’s an opportunity we had because of not having as much access to the internet here. Back at the Marian Home, we basically have unlimited internet because of the wireless signal we get from the sisters upstairs. And although we try and limit ourselves in our usage of it, inevitably you devote a little more time to that instead of devoting a little more time to ministry and fellowship. So, that was a nice change of pace. I think it will also help me to appreciate the contact I do have with family and friends. Since I won’t have it as much, I’ll appreciate it more. I’ll also be better able to enter into the “retreat” aspect of our time here. Ended up getting to bed around 10 o’clock (early for me). That was also due to not having as much internet access, thus not putting off getting the rest that I need. And believe me I need it since I wake up at 4am. (4:30 back at the Marian Home). I have to wake up that early so that I can get in my personal prayer time and Scripture reading before I take a shower, get dressed, and then go to morning Mass.

Today was a really nice day too. Woke up refreshed, enjoyed my personal prayer and Scripture reading time in the chapel downstairs (which has a tabernacle with Jesus Body and Blood! 🙂 ), and then joined the sisters in their morning prayer before we went to 6am Mass. (It was actually a communion service and will be the same tomorrow, since the priest is out until Wed. morning). After breakfast and morning prayer, me and Mark walked with Sister Francis on her way to a lab appt. and then headed off to the Super J (grocery store chain) to get a few things. Saw alot of locals and their streetside “market” where they sold all kinds of diff. fruits, veggies, and other things they grow. Passed by the local independence monument, and kicked myself for leaving behind my camera, although it’s such a small town and easy to navigate that I’m pretty sure I’ll pass by it again. After we walked home, we decided on a whim to go to the beach for a short while, about an hour. Besides wanting to go to the beach, we wanted to investigate our beach options. Since Vieux Fort is literally at the southern tip of the island, when you look out the west side of the house, you see the Carribean, and when you look at the east side, you see the Atlantic. Today, we checked out the beaches on the Carribean side. First off, I gotta say that we enjoyed our time at the beach. The kids were able to swim and play in the sand. I was able to take a dip in the water a few times and got to lay down and catch some sun. However, it was definitely a missionary beach experience, not a ritzy touristy one. Our trek that led us to our spot on the beach led us past rocks, pieces of junk and trash (litter is a big problem in St. Lucia), and some less than ideal walking spaces for such a large group. One of the guys that gave Mark directions on how to get to our beach spot had the world’s largest joint in his hand. At one point on the path, we walked past a free roaming horse and her baby (forget what horse babies are called). And I’m pretty sure I caught the scent of horse poo several times while we were at the beach. Like I said, it was both enjoyable AND interesting.

Made our way back to the convent, did my daily workout and took a shower, and had a pretty normal remainder of the day. Aside from our normal routine, one of the things Sister Mary did was to introduce us to some young girls nearby. She’s going to have some of the older kids help the girls with tutoring and I think she also wants these local girls to have someone to visit with, as I’m sure they dont’ get that very often. Me, and 3 of the Eckstines also accompanied Sister Mary to a planning meeting for a fundraiser for the Vieux Fort Children’s Society. It’s a non profit that has been formed with the hopes of starting a children’s home. Currently, the only children’s home on the island is in Castries (in the north), so the kids down here that are homeless, abandoned, come from abusive homes, etc… have nowheres to turn to. The meeting was a perfect example of Mother Theresa’s saying “God calls us to be faithful, not successful.” Of course there were some minor details discussed that pertained to us, but 99% of our time there was spent watching and listening and doing nothing at all. I wanted to go because I had nothing else to do and wanted to spend my time as a missionary doing something constructive instead of being lazy. Another reason I was called there was to test my patience. I think too that aside from learning that and some other things from the people that were there, that hopefully they too were able to learn from our witness and presence. Came home after that, ate supper, and then did night prayer as well as some more retreat reflections and discussions.

The two themes that seemed to stand out today were Joy and God’s Guidance. Our scripture for God’s Guidance was 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, & the passage that related to Joy came from our morning prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. The summary of my thoughts on God’s Guidance was “God will send us brothers and sisters in Christ who can strengthen our faith and He will direct our hearts to his love and Christ’s steadfastness.” In regards to Joy I wrote “If we welcome the Word of God into our hearts and seek after the right values, we will have abiding & eternal joy.” Then during our night prayer tonight 7 of us were a assigned a gift of the Spirit to read, pray, and reflect upon. I chose the gift of Wisdom, which is something I yearn for and which fascinates me. I found some great references (Wisdom 6:12-16 & CCC #474) and my nugget of wisdom was that “true wisdom comes from God & helps us to make good use of knowledge and understanding.” To demonstrate it, I came up with the following analogy: Knowledge is the certainty that the sun is bright and hot. Understanding is realizing it is that way because it is a gigantic ball of burning gas that emits heat and radiation. Wisdom is the ability to use that Knowledge and Understanding to warm ourselves, see where we’re going, or get a tan.

Day 2 – Tuesday, May 24, 2011 – 9:12pm – Upstairs Living Room

Really enjoyed the day today. The rain stopped us from taking a walk around town this morning. We were also gonna take a walk by the lumberyard to see what materials were available for the work we need to do on the blind lady’s house. Ended up staying home all morning and doing alot of journalling and some reading. Ate lunch and took a nap. Woke up, prayed the chaplet and then we walked around town just to explore and familiarize ourselves. Got to see the Indepence memorial monument. Then did my workout and took a shower before supper. Had two different times today that we did our “retreat” portion of the day. So far, I’m really diggin’ this retreat aspect of our time here.

The gift of the spirit that I had to report on was Wisdom. True wisdom comes from God (CCC #474) and helps us to make good use of knowledge and understanding. Reference Wisdom 6:12-16, Sirach 39, 2 Peter 1:4, Galatians 5:2-23, and Proverbs 2:1-15. Wisdom is being a good steward of God’s gifts in your life. Wisdom is know what to do with what you got. We need to be docile to the Spirit (malleable, flexible too).

Ministry reflection questions: 1.) What are my primary ministries? 2.)How are they going? 3.) Is what you’re doing what you thought you’d be doing?

1.) My ministries are primariliy visiting with the elderly at 4 different nursing homes, as well as having a ministry of prayer.

2.) They are going well. Both of them seem to fit well with my personality and gifts that God has given me. The necessity of both is evident. The elderly need someone to pray and visit with them. They need to know that they are cared for and not forgotten. My own life and spiritual journey, as well as the needs we encounter show me that my ministry of prayer is also important. I’m able to visit the Marian Home, St. Lucy Home, Adelaide Home, and Missionaries of Charity Home each week. Some of them I’m able to visit multiple times per week. On a typical day, my prayer ministry includes personal prayer in the morning (meditation, scripture, and intercessory prayer), Mass, grace at meals, morning prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, the Angelus, Noonday prayer, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and Night Prayer.  At first I thought that I prayed alot because I wasn’t yet busy with what God really wanted me to do. But then it occurred tome that I’m supposed to pray because without prayer, which is my connection to God, which is how I receive God’s grace, there will not be much fruit that’s born in my life and in the lives of all for whom I pray and with whom I am connected.

3.) What I’m doing is NOT what I thought I’d be doing. I thought I would be teaching in a school and leading a youth group at a church. However, i’m not disappointed that this has happened. I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy the ministries I do, and how much I’m motivated to do them.

Random Reflection:

I’ll spare you the details, but I’m in need of the sacrament of confession. It looks like that won’t happen until tomorrow since the priest is out ’till then. I’m so used to having this sacrament readily available as soon as I need/want it. That has been a huge blessing for me. On the other hand, being in a situation where it’s not as readily available really makes the priest shortage so much more real to me. It also gives me an increased appreciation for the priests we do have, as well as helping me to appreciate all those who support and promote vocations. And since this time of retreat and prayer cannot be put on hold until I’m able to receive absolution, I have to deal with it the best that I can. I’m forced to live with and reflect on the tension created in my life and soul that results from choosing sin over God. I have to live with not having the peace of heart and soul that I could have. It also increases my desire to restore right relationship with God. Another thing I’ve realized is that it has almost forced me to confide in the protection and intercession of the angels, saints, and Mother Mary to protect me and guide me until I can receive the sacrament of confession and not be at risk of dying in a state of mortal sin.

The whole experience has also humbled me. It seems like my thoughts, reflections, and journaling is the best it’s been in quite awhile. My first guess as to why this is happening is because whenever I’m not in a state of mortal sin, a subtle form of pride creeps in. I allow myself to rest easy. “It’s ok. I’m in God’s grace. No danger for me. I feel at peace. I like not having to worry.” Yes, God wants us to have peace, but the Bible also tells us that we have to always be vigilant on our spiritual journey. The moment we relax too much, lose focus, and think that we have “arrived”, that marks the beginning of our downfall. So in a paradoxical and ironic sort of way, I realize my need for God and his mercy while I’m in this state of mortal sin. And I think this has allowed me to receive the humility that has allowed my thoughts, reflections, and journaling to be what they have been thus far. And while I’m discussing sin, it also occurred to me how many of our battles with sin occur because of giving ourselves excuses to do so. Under the guise of false concern, a defeatist attitude, or some other weak reason, we give ourselves permission to indulge in sin by not fighting against it.

One of these excuses, which is itself a sin, is the sin of presumption. It’s the sin whereby we presume that God will forgive us for what we are about to do. In other words with this sin we say “God forgive me for what I’m about to do, because I’ve already sinned and I might as well do this too since I have to go to confession later anyways.” Besides selfishly distorting God’s grace and mercy for our purposes, this also means we’ve fallen victim to the lie that when we’ve fallen into sin, all hope is lost & there’s nothing good we can possibly do. True, we have separated ourselves from God by our own choice to sin. But, we are still his child and we also still have angels & saints as well as our own brothers & sisters here on earth to put us on the right track again and assist us in doing good works. This is one area where for the first time, I feel like I was able to make some progress. In spite of my intial choice to commit mortal sin, I feel like I’ve been able to choose not to add sin to sin. It feels really good. I have a hunch that if God’s grace has allowed me to advance to this stage, then I’m really close to conquering this particular sin permanently.

Day 3 – Wednesday, May 25, 2011 – 8:27pm – Upstairs Living Room

Today started off differently than I had hoped it would. Sister told us Sunday that we’d have communion services Monday and Tuesday since the priest was out, but Mass would resume today. Well, I get to “Mass” and out walks the same layman that officiated the communion service the previous two mornings. He begins by telling us that the priest missed his plane. I hope the priest is ok, and my second thought was I sure hope he comes back tomorrow. The rest of the morning was low key. Mark and Lora went to the resale shop run by the Vieux Fort Children’s Society and did some other errands. I stayed home and watched the kids. About 10:00, the little kids were being too noisy and woke up the baby. So, of course he’s cranky and not happy with the world. Ellie tried holding him, I tried. And when he was trying to throw a tantrum, I tried quieting him, even spanked him a couple times. He finally calmed down a bit, but I could tell he just needed to get back to bed. So, after imposing threat of “getting in trouble with mommy and daddy” to get the littles to be quiet, I began my odyssey of getting the baby to sleep. I don’t have much experience with kids, but this one sure does fight the sleep. I sang the chaplet. He calmed way down, and his eyes even got a little droopy. But, now and then, he’d get a little whiney. So I finally decided to lay him down in his bed. Had to keep a hand on him, not so much to hold him down but moreso to reassure him that someone was there. He’s one of those babies that always has to have some kind of contact in order to not be whiney or fussy when trying to put him down for a nap. So, after at least 30 minutes of tahtah-ing him and reading a book to pass the time, he FINALLY zonked out. Praise The Lord! The only other thing really notable about the day we me and Mark walking to the lumberyard/hardware store. Yeah, I know, that’s how you can tell i’m a missionary on retreat. When the highlight of my day is walking to the lumberyard! 🙂 We needed to check out their materials and prices so we could get an idea of what we were lookin’ at to be able to fix up that blind lady’s roof so it didn’t leak. Mark figured $200EC (approx. $70US), which is not bad at all.

My first spiritual nugget of the day was a quote from the book “Cursillos in Christianity: Leader’s Manual”. It states “….it is not likely that a person will love God unless he prays to him, unless he spends some time with Him as a person. It is the same with any personal relationship. Two people have to spend some time together or they will not develop a friendship and a love. The friendship will be broader than just the time they spend together. It will begin to penetrate all of their lives the deeper it becomes. But it is the time together that is indispensable for the forming of the bond.” I was drawn to this quote for 2 reason. First of all, it opened my eyes on how to approach my relationship with God. Do I really talk with God and spend time with Him everyday? Or do I just mentally acknowledge his presence, rattle off a few prayers, and call that a relationship? Second of all, it brought a whole new meaning to my discernment of marriage, and the process of friendship and dating that precedes engagement and marriage. It speaks to me of the importance of forming a friendship, a truly loving friendship that brings joy and happiness, and is centered on God. I also see in it the importance of devoting time to that special person. Of course, as a missionary, any friendships that I begin to form now will be long distance. But I feel like I can devote the time necessary to nurture these friendships, both in prayer and in conversation. Online chatting and video chat programs make it much easier to have some good face time. And in God’s time, I’ll have some actual face-to-face encounters as well.

Today’s gift of the Spirit was Understanding. During Ellie’s presentation of this gift, I came away with some good tidbits. I discovered that it is an intimate knowledge of God. Not just knowledge, but INTIMATE knowledge. (ref. Proverbs 2:3-13). Understanding will guard you. Understanding helps us to see what God is not; helps us to have a deep and abiding peace; helps us to be at peace with the mystery in life and to savor the mystery. I especially like the part about “deep and abiding peace”.

Well, I gotta go. Need to get MagicJack running on my computer so Sister Mary can make some phone calls home to the states. Then, gotta get back online and do some more researching of plane ticket prices.

Day 4 – Thursday, May 26, 2011 – 8:27pm – Upstairs Living Room

So, I’ve discovered that there are two reasons to not worry too much about what you’re going to do on any given day as a missionary. For one thing, it helps you to trust God and just be at peace with whatever he brings to you. It also saves you the trouble of saying that you’re gonna do something and then having to explain later why you didn’t do it! 🙂 Today was one of those days where I shoulda done that. It started off VERY well. I had been needing to go to confession since Monday, and as I mentioned earlier in the week, i was expecting Father to be back for Mass on Wed. morning. Well, since he missed his plane, I had to wait until this morning. He was very accomodating and agreed to hear my confession after Mass, and then even came over and met the rest of the mission team. We were also blessed to visit with Peter Fevrier this morning. He works for the Family & Life Secretariat here in the Archdiocese and was instrumental in getting us set up here with the sisters in Vieux Fort. Since the first day we arrived we were expecting him to come and visit with us. Today he finally made it here (he’s been VERY busy). I was thinking the whole purpose of him coming was purely practical. Maybe he was going to help us purchase supplies to work on Ms. Bibi’s leaking roof, or bring us food, or something like that. And while we did take a minute or two to briefly discuss practical matters, most of his visit was exactly that, just visiting. We must have spent almost an hour just talking about different aspects of pro-life ministry and things that are coming up soon. It was good just to sit there and visit with him, not have an agenda, and be blessed by his witness and enthusiasm. Later in the morning Mark mentioned that he and Lora would go by Ms. Bibi’s house sometime after lunch with the ladder to make some last minute assesments and then me and him would go to the lumberyard to get the materials we needed. Well, the rain changed those plans. Mark went to Ms. Bibi’s, by himself, without the ladder. And by the time he got back, the lumberyard was about to close, so we didn’t go. An unexpected blessing that I did receive came later in the evening. Sister Mary took me and Mark to visit a quadriplegic guy named Moses. He was probably close to my age. We briefly talked with his mom about building a ramp from their front steps out to the street, so getting him in and out would not be as difficult. Got to talk to him a little bit too. Understandably he wasn’t extremely talkative, but he wasn’t shy either. Sister even said that she was surprised at how talkative he actually was. I’m guessing he’s normally very quiet. Maybe having some guys there kinda made him feel at home and loosened him up a bit. I know Mark is the brains of the construction type of work, but i’m hoping to get a chance to just go and visit with him before we leave.

Our retreat time was good today, but we didn’t do quite as much as I thought we would. Can’t really explain why, except that it’s how rhythm of the day unfolded. In his homily this morning, father mentioned that “a wounded animal is the most dangerous. it’s desperate and has nothing to lose”. During our retreat time, Mark recalled this and posed the question to us: “how have we hurt or wounded each other?” Then as the discussion veered towards summer plans and what we would need for them to happen, Mark reminded us of Mr. Frank saying that we have to keep in touch with our donors, that way they can donate to us and so they can be blessed by our sharing and testimony. As Mark talked to the kids about whether or not they would be able to go to faith camp, he mentioned that if the Lord says no, then it’s a good thing. I echoed that by telling the kids how when God has said no to my heart’s desire (a loving relationship with a girl) he has blessed me with the incredible experiences of seminary and living life as a foreign missionary. Then I kinda reflected on all the wonderful things going on in my life right now, and realized that I am in a season of blessing. 🙂

Day 5 – Friday, May 27, 2011 – 9:34pm- Upstairs Living Room

Today was quite the day. Our team retreat this morning was really really good. The catalyst for the conversation was a question about how can things be improved. And that basically launched me and Mark on some really good reflections about what is so challenging about missions specifically for each one of us, and some of the things we hope to see happen in the next few months. It was very much a blessing to see Mark open up like he did, and Lora had some really good input too. I think it was the first time since we’ve been here that the three adults have really just laid it all out on the table. It’s not that we don’t like each other, but we’re at diff. stages in life and still learning how to interact with each other. None of us is particularly outspoken, so it’s hard for us to just come out and say stuff. We also finally got over to Ms. Bibi’s house to start fixing her leaky roof. She’s the blind lady I mentioned earlier in the week. After Mark assessed the situation, and even went there yesterday when it was raining, he couldn’t tell exactly where it was supposedly leaking from. So we bought some tar-backed aluminum tape, and covered the holes and seams that we could. We’ll probably go back in the next few days with another roll or two to see how much more we can do. Got some really good action pics and got a pic of me and Mark with Ms. Bibi too. Me and Mark also got the chance to visit Moses again. I hung out with Moses and chatted while Mark made some measurements for the ramp out front and went around the house while the mother showed Mark a few other things. It was really good to chat with Moses. I felt like just being there as a Christian and as a friend was helpful. Not sure how many visitors he gets each day, but i know i wouldn’t mind having visitors myself.

Had some good reflections today too. So, you know during Mass, the penitential rite where we confess our sins to God and community? (“I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, etc….”) As we were saying that during Mass earlier this morning, it struck me that I was just SAYING it but not PRAYING it. Then I got to thinkin’ about 2 things: 1.) How often do I say instead of pray? & 2.) Do I claim God’s forgiveness? What I mean by #2 is that this morning I noticed I was just saying the penitential rite instead of praying it. I wasn’t trying to claim God’s forgiveness and mercy. Naturally I then started reflecting on how many other times I’ve failed to claim his forgiveness. How much different would my spiritual  journey be if I did claim that forgiveness?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

“….loneliness is the greatest fear of humanity. In isolation people cannot be fully human. Our experiences of life confirm this. People inevitably form into groups, associations, communities, organizations. Some are temporary, some long-lived. They have a variety of purposes, but all prove man’s need for sharing and living his life with others.” –Cursillos in Christianity: Leader’s Manual–

Day 6 – Saturday, May 28, 2011 – 10:00pm- Upstairs Living Room

So the first thing in my notes said “My prediction for today is that either we have a cleaning/work day or a beach day. We’ll see what happens 🙂 It definitely wasn’t a beach day. The morning started out with me accompanying Sister Mary on a few errands to prepare for the St. Vincent DePaul Society meeting later in the morning. Had to pick up some snacks and a few things from the store. Came back just in time for the start of morning prayer. Afterwards I decided to hand wash my laundry. I wanted to handwash for a few reasons. First of all, when I saw the clothes that Mark washed in the washer the other day, some of the shirts had a ridiculous amount of what i’m guessing was lint all over them. Not a fan of lint, so that had me sold on handwashing. Second of all, I had some little packets of Tide laundry detergent that was specifically formulated for handwashing of clothes. I bought them back in 2008 when I went to Australia/New Zealand for World Youth Day and I figured I should use up some more of it. Third reason was that I needed something to do. There wasn’t really any other work for me to do, and I didn’t wanna be a complete slacker either. Also felt like handwashing would be a way to toughen myself up a bit and sacrifice the ease and comfort I was used to. So after filling buckets (2), suds-ing, agitating, wringing out, rinsing, re-wringing out, and hanging up to dry, I was done. Took me about an hour or so. Did alot of reading the rest of the morning. After lunch, I checked email and then took a nap. Woke up, prayed a chaplet of divine love for priests, took a shower, and then went back into the house. After supper we had evening prayer and our retreat time for the day. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was my day.

(from earlier today) As I sit here, sippin’ on some coffee, doin’ my morning spiritual and scripture reading, a nice rain is falling. The doors and windows are open. A nice breeze is blowing. Several of the kids are sitting in the room, next to me, quietly reading. It’s one of those heaven moments 🙂

Oh yeah, one more thing. So as I’m sitting here, I’m wearing my Pope Benedict XVI shirt from World Youth Day 2008, and Isaac keeps pokin’ the Pope’s face and makin garbled goo-goo sounds. Methinks he likes the Pope! 🙂

Judging by the amount of good reflections I seem to be having and how having a small journal nearby makes it easy  to record them, I think I’m going to try and have some kind of little notebook on me at all times. Try to be more vigilant about rewriting these thoughts…

I was also doing some reflecting on friendships and relationships recently. I’m at that stage where my year-long singles commitment is almost up (Sept. 15th). And regardless of singles commitment or no singles commitment, I’m at that stage in life where it’s what I notice and think about quite a bit. My past relationships, my faith, and other life experiences have taught me alot about the opposite sex and how I interact with them and what to look for. One thing I’ve realized is that everytime I’ve acted unchastely or improperly towards or with a girl, it was simply a very misguided way of seeking true fulfillment. (If you’ve studied Theology of the Body then you’re familiar with this concept). It occurred to me that these actions represented my want and need to be able to open up to someone, for them to be able to see me as I am, and for them to open up to me too so that I can truly see them. I’ve also reflected on things I can use as a measuring stick for determining if I have a good connection with a girl or not. One of those is “Do I act chase with her, and do I also DESIRE to act chaste with her?” Chances are that if I don’t have unchaste desires or actions with her, then it means that she brings out the best in me, and that she’s a possible match. If however, I struggle with chastity in some way with a girl, then there’s a good chance that a good connection might not exist and that I need to be cautious.

I should be thanking God for my struggles because they show me what I need to work on. If these struggle were never made evident, then how would I know to correct them?

Romans 8:14-18

The gift of counsel makes us responsive to the enlightenment of God. It’s a good gift to pray for while at Mass, considering all the ways God enlightens us through the Mass.

When my mind wandered during our sharing, I used my ink pen to draw squares around all the freckles on my right leg.

You know, I kinda wish that one of the struggles I have right now, grumpiness, would disappear soon. No, I’m not one of those people that’s grumpy with the world. It’s just that being a missionary, even in a paradise like St. Lucia, is difficult. And i’m still working on trying to adjust to living with a family that has 10 kids. Sometimes adjusting to that plus dealing with my own shortcomings and struggles plus the normal stresses of mission life, it all makes me a little grumpy sometimes. I’m lucky that these kids being as good as they are, just kinda brush it off. But, they do notice it, and that’s what has me feelin bad. Whoever the patron saint of grumpy missionaries is, please pray for me! :-p

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