Posts Tagged With: scripture

January 2013 Missionary Newsletter

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” –Romans 5:3-5–

Dearest Benefactors,

I just wanted to say how happy I am to be able to write y’all again. Everytime I write, it means that there is more to report on the ways God is working in my life as a missionary. That is ALWAYS an exciting and good thing! 🙂 As y’all already know, last year my full-time mission post was FMC’s Casa de Misiones in General Cepeda, Coahuila, Mexico. I was there for a total of 8 months with the other 4 months of the year split between visits to friends and family, 2 short term trips to St. Lucia (my mission post from 2011), and some time spent at our Big Woods Mission Base in Abbeville, LA. After my 5th or 6th month in Mexico, I started to feel like it was time for me to come back stateside. I didn’t know exactly what that meant, as my living situation and possible ministry opportunities had not yet been established. But when you know it’s time to move on, you step out in faith knowing that the good Lord will provide.

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fourth name from bottom. I’m official y’all! 🙂

Thanks be to God that in my last month in Mexico, November 2012, things started to clear up, and by the time the Christmas holiday was over, my course was set. Part of what I discerned last year was that I wanted to do stateside mission work.So, I am now living at our Big Woods Mission Base as my full-time mission post. One of my new “jobs” is working as a liaison for our retreat house, Our Lady of the Bayous, and for our retreat ministry. If a group wants to book our facility, I’m the guy they talk to. If a group needs missionaries to put on a retreat, I’m the guy they talk to. And if a group wants to do a service project at our retreat house or mission base, I’m the guy they talk to. I’m also involved in the day to day operations of our retreat house. It can be a very busy but very rewarding ministry at the same time.

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me and my dad wearing the shirts I bought while at language school in Cuernavaca

 

My other main duty is serving as Evangelization/Outreach coordinator at one of the nearby parishes, St. Mary Magdalen. In this role I do alot of follow-up home visits in conjunction with our door-to-door evangelization team, in order to pray, visit, read scripture, and help these people to enter more fully into the sacramental life of the Church. Part of this job also entails doing a weekly Bible study at the Christian Service Center, which is a part of the church parish. Aside from this, I also lend a helping hand with any manual labor that needs to be done at the service center, such as stocking the pantry shelves and unloading food shipments.

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me and Donnie, one of the home visits. Please say a prayer for him, he’s been a bit sick lately

 

As you can see, God is keeping me busy with lots of ministry opportunities. I’m so blessed that y’all continue to journey with me in my missionary vocation. Your support makes it all possible, and without your prayers I would not have the strength I need to do what I do. Thank you so very much. I hope you had a Merry Christmas and are having a Happy New Year.

God Bless!

Sid Savoie

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Sid’s 40 Day Fast – Day 11

Day 11 – Thursday – 10/4/12

So, I think one of the fruits of my fast that I’m already beginning to see is an increased level of appreciation. Just in general. I seem to be appreciating stuff more. It also seems like my general/overall “happiness” level is up too. At noon today is the first of two St. Francis feast day Masses at our church parish, San Francisco de Asis. And the retired Bishop Emeritus, Francisco Villalobos (who sounds like the voice of God when he talks and reads) will be celebrating Mass. Kinda neat that Francisco is celebrating Francisco’s feast at the parish of Francisco. Feel like that’s Catholicism’s way of ensuring a gaping ripped hole in the space-time continuum that will create a massive black hole that will swallow us all and send us to a much earlier than anticipated meeting with our maker. (edit: as you can tell, the whole “rip in the space-time continuum black hole” thing didn’t happen. But what did happen is that I got to briefly chat with the “voice of God”, aka Bishop Villalobos briefly after Mass. Super holy, super nice dude)

He’s a really good friend of our missionary company’s founders, Frank and Genie, from way back in the day when they first came here and he was the bishop. Speaking of fasting and eating, maybe if I play the “I’m Frank and Genie’s missionary” card, he’ll invite me to eat a delicious lunch with him. I mean, bishop’s gotta eat, right? So why not eat with him? 🙂 We’ll see…… (edit #2: didn’t get to play that card, so I’ll never know. Ended up eating 7 missionary hot dogs for lunch. A missionary hot dog is a hot dog that uses a slice of wheat bread for the bun instead of a regular hot dog bun. Ends up be a little healthier and ALOT cheaper)

I think aside from clarity being a product of my fasting, I’m also starting to notice that I seem to have more spiritual insight. Lest I be mistaken as prideful, I can assure you that any and all insight is a gift from God and has nothing to do with me. For example, when we comment on the scripture reading during our community prayer, I feel like the scripture is more alive and that I have more to say and share. And of course I also seem to have more spiritual insight in regards to my own personal journey with the Lord. Well, I’m off to enjoy the singing, dancing, and other fesitivities that lead up to the main event later tonight, the fireworks! 🙂 As a near and dear missionary brother of mine says, Hasta La Pasta!

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Sid’s 40 Day Fast – Day 9

Day 9 – Tuesday – 10/2/12

Well, I slept a little better last night, but it’s still too early to tell if it’s because I’m eating lunch instead of supper. I had a spiritual insight this morning. The first psalm talked about “a soul thirsting for God”, “yearning for God”, “for you my soul is thirsting”, & “my body pines for you like a dry weary land without water”. Because of my fast these verses came to life in a whole new way. After I read them I started wondering if I thirst & hunger for God at least as much as I hunger and thirst for physical food and nourishment. Am I as ravenously hungry at the table of God’s Word in the same way that I am at a table of regular food? Since I am fasting, once my daily mealtime comes around I REALLY look forward to eating, and when I start eating I feel like I could just eat and eat and eat and that I can’t get enough. Do I feel the same way or even more strongly when I encounter prayer, The Eucharist, Scripture, fellowship, missionary work, etc…..? Another analogy I thought of was wondering if I desire God as much as I desire the air that I breathe? To be honest, I have to answer no, which is not a good thing. But at least God has revealed that much to me and I can begin to work on it.

I also had a tiny snack this afternoon after Mass. One of our missionary families is preparing breakfast for everyone who will be at the St. Francis novena rosary tomorrow morning at the parish. Marta invited me over after Mass to take pictures of the food prep for their missionary newsletter and said I could sample one of her tacos. Felt it would be rude to turn down the invitation! 🙂 But, in moderation, and not wanting to break my fast too much, i had one small RIDICULOUSLY DELICIOUS taco. Coulda eaten 10 of those things. After that taco and a small soft drink, I told everyone that was in the kitchen visiting and helping that I picked the worst country to do my first 40-day fast. (They all got a good laugh outta that).

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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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Pics from my first week in Mexico

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Pic of the Mexican license plate on the back of our friend Raul’s suburban. We donated the suburban to him and helped to import it and pay the fees to transfer ownership to him.

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These two pics are of my new Mexican sandals, made from leather and old tires

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Praise and Worship in espanol!

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Sharing Scripture at a prayer meeting in someone’s house

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beautiful Mexican desert sunset

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now you know what you’ll find at the end of the rainbow. A Cajun, not a leprechaun! 🙂

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oh, did I mention it was a double rainbow?

My alter-ego, Tinito El Guapo, the luchador

the handsomest and strongest lavadora and secadora of dishes in todo el mundo!

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June Missionary Newsletter

Easter is not just a day, it’s a way of life!

My Dearest Benefactors,

It brings me great joy to write you and let you know how the Lord has been moving in my life and in missions. The last time I wrote you, it was almost the end of Lent, which was a spiritually enriching experience for me. I hope it was for you too.

Holy Week and the Easter Triduum were a blessing as well. The opportunity to experience the life of the Church through another culture was a great blessing. I was chosen to be one of the 12 “Apostles” for the foot washing during Holy Thursday Mass & it was an experience I’ll never forget. I was also blessed by the St. Lucians’ celebration of Good Friday. The day began with Stations of the Cross at 4am with a group from our church parish. We prayed and had meditations for each station, then would sing and process down the street to our next station. At the halfway point, we joined up with another group from the Cathedral. After we joined this group and added to that all the other people who joined the procession, there were almost 2000 people! Later that morning I assisted with another Way of the Cross at a mission station on the mountain. We started at a parishioner’s house and had a 2-mile trek to the local school. As we were getting started, I saw that no one had yet volunteered to carry the wooden Cross, so I got to do that too!

As good as all these celebrations were, it was a real blessing to get back to “normal”. The difference now was getting to live out our missionary calling within the graces of the Easter season. For the first time in my life, I’ve seen Easter as not just a day or a ritual we go through. It’s a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and his power in our lives, and I’m thankful that the Church celebrates it for 50 days! We’ve resumed our various ministries: nursing homes, prayer ministry, parish office hours, feeding the poor, evangelization, and work projects. We’re also making plans to start some new ministries. For the past two weeks, however, there’s been a slight change of pace. A visiting missionary group from Nebraska came to St.Lucia and is staying at our house in Castries. During this time we’ve been staying at a Franciscan convent in the south of the
island, having a team retreat, some prayer time, and doing some work projects. We were able to do some roof repairs at a blind lady’s house. We were also able to get her house primed to be painted. At the house of a young man confined to a wheelchair, we built a mold and poured the concrete for a ramp from his front door to the street.

We’ll be heading back to Castries tomorrow and then things will REALLY get hoppin! We’re welcoming 4 of our missionaries and a priest who are coming down to assist in FMC’s first ever Summer School of Missionary Evangelism.
It’s a month-long program where participants study Church documents and Scripture & take classes on mission work. During the last week they’ll be focusing entirely on going out into the community and putting what they learned into practice. I’m excited to reconnect with my missionary brothers and sisters & the participants as well. I think the fellowship during this coming month will fan the flame of the Holy Spirit in my heart. I look forward to a renewal of my call as a missionary!

At the end of the summer school (1st week of July) I will be flying back to the States for 6 weeks for a FULL summer. In July I’ll be assisting at Faith Camp. The focus is on providing an amazing experience of faith and fellowship for middle school kids that will deepen their relationship with Christ. The week after, I’ll be an adult volunteer at another Christian
summer camp that I attended as a camper and later as a counselor. The next week and a half will be spent visiting family and friends, & going to appointments and running errands. Then on August 8th I fly out to Europe for World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid! It’s an amazing event where millions of youth and young adults gather to celebrate Jesus and meet the Pope. We’ll be seeing various pilgrimage sites in Spain, France, and Italy before we go to Madrid to celebrate the overnight vigil and closing Mass with Pope Benedict XVI. My favorite part of the trip will be visiting The Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica! It’s the center of the Church and has been a lifelong dream of mine to be able to go there. A few months ago I
didn’t even know if I’d have the money to go, and then I got the message that an anonymous benefactor had donated the entire cost of my trip! Praise the Lord! Yet another humbling experience of God knowing my heart’s desires and providing for me in a way I never thought possible. God is good!

I would like to end my newsletter by thanking you for your constant support. Without your prayers my work would not be as fruitful as it has been. I also thank you for your financial support. It’s vital to my mission and I thank God in prayer that you have been providing for me so generously. Please continue to support me through your prayers and financial contributions. I’m still in need of a plane ticket back home to Louisiana for my summer visit and a round trip ticket from Louisiana to St. Lucia and back. I also need benefactors to continue to support me so that I can pay for my monthly expenses.

I encourage you to read my online blog, https://cajunmissionary.wordpress.com. Please feel free to email me (sidsavoie@catholic.org) or look me up on facebook. I love to share my experiences and pray for my benefactors. And for anyone who wishes, I also like to write talks, reflections, articles for bulletins & diocesan newspapers, etc….

May God Be With You!
Sid Savoie

“Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?”
–Job 4:6–

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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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“Desert” Day at the Beach

 

Thursday, February 17, 2011 – 12:13pm – Rodney Bay Beach, St. Lucia

This is definitely one of those moments where I feel like God is giving us a bonus for being in missions. It’s a beautiful, sunny day with a nice breezing blowing in from the Carribean. As I sit here, writing in my journal, the waves are lapping at my feet. I can hear the radio at one of the nearby cabanas. Sand is going in between my toes. Absolutely gorgeous. In a way, I feel guilty though, like I don’t deserve it. To be honest, I don’t deserve it. I’m not that great of a missionary (yet). I’m lazy, still focus on myself alot, and I don’t put myself out there to really try and minister to people’s needs. I’m not even as deserving as many of the tourists here. At least they worked hard and saved money to be able to come here.

But then I remind myself that God doesn’t bless me because I’ve earned it or “deserve” it. He blesses me because he loves me. Plain and simple. When we think about following God’s call, we always tend to think in terms of what we’ll have to give up. In missions, I don’t get to see my friends or family. I’ve got to put my dream of finding the perfect girl on hold. I no longer have my cats or my dog. I think you get my point. But today as I reflect on all of this, I wonder “Why don’t we ever think of what we’ll GAIN by following God’s call?” I’m able to visit, minister to, and pray daily with the elderly and infirm. I get to share food, water, prayer, and companionship with the poor. I get to experience the Church as universal. I’m blessed to live with a family of 10 kids and learn about the family life that I so desire.

On my “desert” day of prayer and reflection, I get to come to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and swim and play and walk around. I get to make my mission cross from a coconut shell. Maybe if we think in terms of what we’ll gain instead of what we’ll lose, our lives would truly be changed for the better. I leave you with a Scripture and ask for your continual prayers. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein; for he has founded it upon the [Carribean 🙂 ] seas, and established it upon the rivers.” –Psalm 24:1-2–

P.S. – I just met a nice couple from Arkansas as I was walking down the beach getting some scenic shots. ‘Bout to read the last chapter of the philosophy book I’ve been working on for awhile. Also realized that I was wearing my mission cross to the beach, a cross that I made from the shell of a St. Lucia coconut. Only would this all happen……….on the same day……….on the beach………..in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia………….on missions! Boy oh boy, the interesting stories I’ll get to tell my future children and grandchildren about my time in missions.

 

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This guy is jonesin’ on SOMETHIN’, so what’s the right thing to do?…………….

Tuesday, Februsary 1, 2011 – 5:33pm – In the front room @ the Marian Home mission house in Castries, St. Lucia

As you can see from the location I listed, we’ve officially named the first floor of the convent “The Marian Home Mission House”, named after the nursing home right next door. It just seemed appropriate because the Marian Home itself is going to be one of our constant ministries throughout our time here. It’s also good because if a local friend/contact wants to visit us, the name “Marian Home” is very well known. It’s also good for when people send us stuff in the mail, they can use an official name. But I digress.

So earlier today, one of our local co-workers in the vineyard, Peter Fevrier, arranged for a bus to pick us all up and bring us to the Chancery. The Chancery, for those who do not know, is the central office for the Archdiocese of Castries, where the Archbishop and other diocesan officials have their offices. Peter works with the Family & Life secretariat and as per the Archbishop’s request, was assigned to work with us and get us involved in his ministry. At the Chancery, we met everyone in the various offices and made some good contacts. Of particular interest for me was meeting Sister Velona. She is in charge of youth ministry for the Archdiocese. We discussed World Youth Day and a few other particular things of interest. Mainly though, we (me, Mark, and Lora) discussed with her what we do as FMC missionaries (evangelism is our focus) and how we wanted to work into whatever ministries were already existing in the diocese. She seemed very pleased with this. According to her, even though St. Lucia is a mission territory, the difference is that ministries are very organized. Also St. Lucia is very small (14 miles x 26 miles).

All these things are reasons why working into what’s already going on is a good thing. We don’t wanna step on anybody’s toes. We don’t wanna re-invent the wheel. We don’t wanna come in, and give the impression that we American missionaries are the wisest in all the earth and we have come to save you. Yes, we are here to bring people into a close relationship with Jesus, but we have just as much to learn from them, if not more so to learn from them, than they from us. We also want to work ourselves out of a job, by empowering the local laypeople and Catholic community to take charge and be more active. We also don’t want to start anything that is heavily dependent on us, because as soon as that happens, and as soon as we finish our time here (whenever that may be), whatever is dependent on us will flop. At the end of our time visiting with the various people in the Chancery, we attended 12:30 Mass before going back home. It was quite a simple Mass, held in a simple office building type of room, but for some reason was quite moving. I think it had alot to do with the quiet and meditative atmosphere. It also had alot to do with the amazing homily. The priest made lots of good points, but he spoke simply and straightforward.

So when we got back, and after we ate lunch, me and Mark decided to walk into town. Earlier at the Chancery, I expressed interest in the post cards they had because I wanted to send one to my mom for a little birthday present (about all I could really afford). I’m also considering sending post cards from St. Lucia for my thank you notes. Mark graciously (and unbeknownst to me until Mass time) bought three of them for me. I addressed them (sent one to Mom, one to my nieces, and one to my parents’ trophy shop to all my former co-workers), wrote on them, and then proceeded to the post office. It was closed, so we’ll have to go back tomorrow. As we were out and about going to other stores looking for a few small things, a homeless guy I had met the previous week came up to me. I’m glad he remembered me and that I bought him a little snack, mainly because it meant that someone remembered me for something good I did. He was a little “skittish”, which was not abnormal for a street person, especially since he, like many other street people around here, struggle with drug addiction.

So, as we begin to talk, he seems very impatient for me to help him. Tries to get money several times, and I told him no, but that I’d buy the food for him. Then, I told him that we’d have to wait for Mark, who was inside one of the office supply stores. This is what started to set him off, and make him real fidgety and louder. He tried to get me to go buy a big ole thing of Chinese food, which i didn’t, because it’s alot more expensive than a snack from the store. And as a missionary, I have to budget my alms money or else I’ll not only run out of that, but I’ll run out of money for food and bills. anyhoo, so on the way to the grocery store, which was only a 30 second walk from where we were, he tried again to get money instead of food, and expensive food instead of a little snack. Every denial added to his fidgety-ness and caused him to ramble on in Creole (good thing I don’t understand it, who knows what he was sayin’).

Once we got to the supermarket, he kept trying to up the ante on what i would buy, and again each denial got him more key-ed up than before. To top it all off, the locals inside and outside of the store were laughin’ and talkin’ about the whole idea. So, i finally walk into the store, with a sigh of flustration on my face (flustration = flustered + frustration), and the cashier kinda chuckles. I pick up a little bag of chips and i thought homeboy was gonna start kickin and wailin like a little baby. Right or wrong as this may be, I was dumbfounded by this. I mean, if you’re desperate, and need some food or drink, how can you possibly be picky. The cashier said he wouldn’t eat it, and when I asked why, said something about his teeth being bad (maybe from drug use). Ouch, that hurt. Minus one for me. So, i ask her for the cheapest bread, which was a $2.00EC (divide that by 2.5 for the U.S. dollar amount), and she got me a fruity carbonated beverage for an extra $1.50EC.

All in all, i didn’t spend much money at all. But, one thing Mark inspired me to do was instead of just giving somebody something, ask them to pray with me first. If they really need the help, then they’ll pray with me. So, I prayed with the guy, gave him the snack, and we all parted ways. I noticed the reaction of the locals to the whole situation, which included one guy at an electronics store we were at squirting some hand sanitizer in my hand after I shook hands with the homeless guy, maybe because he thought the guy had AIDS or whatever. The other locals laughed and chattered. I myself, as a new “local” got frustrated and a little concerned too. I was frustrated with his skittish-ness and his pushy-ness. And as imperfect as everybody’s reaction to this guy was, they were somewhat justified. Maybe they were legitimately concerned that he was a druggie and that helping him was enabling him. Maybe they were concerned that he would get violent.

There could be a million other reasons why me and the various people reacted the way we did or thought what we thought. But, the reason I helped the guy is because I’ve been helped many times before, even when I didn’t “deserve” it. I helped him because druggie or not, food and water are necessities for everyone. I also helped him because I wanted to put my faith into practice by helping someone in a very real and material way, and by praying for them and with them. After all, our focus as missionaries is to evangelize and bring people closer to Jesus. I also wanted to try and be a concrete example to those who witnessed the whole episode, as to what I felt was the right thing to do. I still feel guilty though about where my heart is. My legitimate concerns and caution still go way off into self-righteousness, selfishness, and false concern. My heart is hardened by the uncomfort level and difficulty of that type of situation. No matter who the person is, how “bad” they are, or how much they “don’t deserve it”, they are all children of God just as much as we are, and God loves them just as much as us. I could go on and on.

My solution will be a simple one though. Continue to buy a small bit of sustenance to help these types of people, and make sure I pray with them.Maybe limit myself to doing this two or three times MAX per trip into town.  For, if I give them material goods, but don’t bring them closer to Jesus, then all is for nought. Or, I also considered buying a big pack of bottled water, and some small soft bread type of snacks, and making little bags to carry with me everytime I go in town. That way is someone asks me for help, I can pray with them and give them some food and water. Once I run out of bags for that particular journey into town, I can honestly say that I’m not able to help, aside from prayer. It just feels like these are the best ways to help, and at the same time make sure that I’m a good steward with the support my benefactors give to me. Any thoughts or comments you have would be appreciated.

Lord, help me to help those who need help, and to discern with wisdom the best way to do so.

Much love and God Bless!

Well, the right thing to do is to keep the supreme Law of scripture: you will love your neighbour as yourself; but as soon as you make class distinctions, you are committing sin and under condemnation for breaking the Law.”
–James 2:8-9–

How does it help, my brothers, when someone who has never done a single good act claims to have faith? Will that faith bring salvation? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty,’ without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? In the same way faith, if good deeds do not go with it, is quite dead. But someone may say: So you have faith and I have good deeds? Show me this faith of yours without deeds, then! It is by my deeds that I will show you my faith.”

–James 2:14-18–

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“Hello Bible, it’s nice to see you again”

12-22-10 – 1:05pm – @ Awardmaster (my parents’ trophy shop) – Lafayette, LA

Today for me has been like one of those mystery stews where you toss in all the random leftovers. Just kinda seems that way. When Mom left the house and I was still in my PJ’s, she told me that today would be the Christmas lunch for all the employees and that I was invited. Obviously stoked because it meant lunch wraps from Zea’s which are VERY good. I was thinkin’ I’d take my time, watch some TV, take a shower, head to the chapel at St. Ed’s to do some reading, and then mosey on over to the shop to eat what was left. But, then my mom called and said that one of the girls was gonna leave the shop early cuz she wasn’t feeling good and wanted to know if I’d come. She almost seemed kinda timid and uber polite when asking me if I had other plans, and if not could I come in to cover for the girl that was leaving early. Now, yeah, it’s good that my mom’s polite. But I can’t help but thinking something was wrong with this picture. It doesn’t matter that I’m almost 30 either. My mother is my mother. I owe respect and obedience to her whenever possible. She shouldn’t have to ask if I was willing to come. She should be able to know that she can tell me she needs me to come help out at the shop since I’m home on break, and not have to worry about my reaction. I guess it’s one of those things we continue to grow at.

I also feel really bad because when she called to ask if I’d come to the shop, she was asking me about something that I was taking care of already (unrelated to work). Well I was. It was mine to take care of. After all, I’m almost 30. I’m a grown man. I need to learn how to take care of my ownself without my mom getting all in a tizzy. Asking about something that doesn’t affect you at all and that you have no control over, is no bueno. The only thing that this effort to satisfy curiosity will do is increase stress levels and possibly give rise to gossip under the guise of “concern for the situation.” So, when I reacted to her asking about the situation after I’d asked her to forget about it and let me take care of it, I felt justified. But, it was HOW I reacted that made me feel bad. I went a step beyond speaking firmly, lost the politeness, and was almost speaking too sternly and speaking down at her like she was a child. This, of course, made me feel like crap. And when I got to thinking about it, I learned more about how I should relate to God. What do I mean? Well, lemme respond with another question: Why did I feel like crap after I reacted to my mom? I didn’t feel like crap because I was fearful of some fiery angry raging response she’d have to my reaction. I felt like crap because I love her. She has been nothing but good to me all my life, and has loved me and provided for me. Therefore, why would I want to or let myself mistreat her? I think that type of fear is what should be our motivation to be holy. We shouldn’t be fearing God’s vengeful wrath so much as we should fear offending the unending love he shows us. If we feel like crap after doing something wrong, it shouldn’t be because of punitive consequences. It should be because we offended against love.

Another interesting tidbit of the day is that I finally read my Bible again for the first time in five days. Whenever I’m at Big Woods, I don’t find that it’s a problem. Out there, we have morning prayer 6 days a week.There’s a chapel with a tabernacle on the property. It’s out in the middle of nowhere and very quiet. Everybody else that lives or works there does so because they are involved in missions. You can see how it’s much easier to maintain a routine of prayer and spiritual reading and Scripture reading while there. The community lends itself to that. At home, it’s a different story. My parents themselves are good people. Besides going to church every Sunday, they both do things during the week that are concrete examples of living out their faith. So they themselves are not the cause of my laxity while at home. It’s that I don’t have a routine & I don’t have a larger community of faith surrounding me. There’s strength in numbers, and my parents can only do so much. The routine helps me to control my urges and focus my time and efforts. It helps me to overcome my laziness. The good thing about being home though is that I have to focus more on making personal effort to do what I need to do, since my normal routines and coping mechanisms aren’t there. Gaining more self-control in this way will definitely be a good thing.

My last bit of news is quite exciting. J In my last entry on the 30th, I went out on a limb and said that we were going to St. Lucia. Well, we finally heard back again from Archbishop Rivas and he said he wants us to come for sure! Yahoo! We will be living on the first floor of a convent, with some nuns living on the second floor above us. There’s a nursing home on the property where we’ll be doing some ministry. The archbishop also asked if I’d be willing to teach at an all-boys school. I’m sure too that there’s poor people that need ministry as well as many other ministry opportunities. Yesterday Sarah-Kate confirmed with me that our plane tickets had been purchased. We leave on the 17th, so we have just under a month before we’re in missions! Until that point, I’ll be spending time with family, packing up, getting rid of stuff, and tying up loose ends. I leave you with a bible verse that I got in my Scripture reading earlier this afternoon:

“I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.”
–Jeremiah 24:7–

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