I returned to Canada on June 13th. I met with the bishop on June 14th at which point he called me to holy orders. I will be ordained to the Order of Deacons on August 23rd at 6:30pm at Christ the King Church in Courtenay, BC.
Yet, being back has been a bit of a weird experience. Spending a year with the sisters and coming back to ‘normal’ life is in some ways weird because life is no longer normal. Life is different now. It can’t be the same anymore. Especially after the San Francisco experience, death relativizes everything, the experiences relativize everything. I approach each day and I see that there is something more, something deeper. To an extent, I miss the day to day “being-thrown-into” of working with the sisters. You never knew what each day would bring you. You didn’t know the joys or the sorrows, and there was a deep peace to that. I find that returning to Canada, to life in Victoria, you have to go out of your way at times to seek out those in the dark.
I am in a parish that is in a suburban part of the city. Walking around, all you see is houses with hints of businesses and shops scattered throughout. The poor, those who are destitute, do not have a visibility in these parts of town. They are all downtown. That is where the people are, that is where they can earn money by begging. Here, the destitute are those alone, those who have no one to be with them. But still, they are not visibly in front of you. You have to go out of your way to find them. I miss the challenges of it all. They were challenges. And I loathed going into them many times. But, when immersed in them, you stay in the moment with the person. You have to make a strong act of the will, with all the help of grace, to remain joyful and loving to those you serve in those moments. But you do it. And afterwards you see how joyful it was, how much peace reigned in your heart. The comforts of going out all the time, of having friends around all the time, those weren’t there and I was ok with that.
There was a challenge there that I have found lacking here.
This has disturbed me.
I see, to an extent, a need in me to work through all this. How do I allow those times to challenge me in my time back in ‘normal life’. It is interesting, despite all my experiences and a few temptations of desire to become an MC Father, my heart never really moved that way. I went there as a diocesan seminarian with the intent of it forming me for life as a diocesan priest and came away formed to live my life as a diocesan priest. I knew that there is a poverty in the average life of the parish (and, most importantly, those outside it as well, those who have not encountered Christ!) that that is where I am called to serve. But now it is time to seek that out, to find it, to serve it. I find my natural tendency towards laziness can so easily take over at times. Life there didn’t allow you to be lazy. Life here can allow that at times. So I see new things in myself to work on, new things to challenge myself in growing closer to Christ for the sake of others. And that will be my challenge: to allow myself to seek out the challenges. They will come, for sure, but not with the intensity and duration they did in the past year. But it is that constant element of ‘being challenged’ that I saw myself grow closer to Christ, and seeing that growing closer to Christ as necessary for the sake of my loving others in Christ. It was through that intensity that thought of self quickly lessened with a rate that was astonishing. Here, with our lifestyle that encourages selfishness, it is hard to resist. I find myself falling into it all the time. Everything needs to center around me. It is hard to live a countercultural attitude in relation to this selfishness, this self-focus, when it permeates our culture so extensively.
So it is interesting. In one way I do not miss the ministry at all. This is due to the fact of my certainty of my call that I am called to serve God’s people here on Vancouver Island. But I miss the challenges, I miss being called outside of myself in a constant and intense way. I miss the reality of it all. I miss the concreteness of it all. Now it is my turn to find that here in my life in the diocese. It is there, but now I no longer have the situations asking of me deep sacrifice each day. Now I need to seek it out. I need to put my will more into dying to self, instead of just allowing the moment to do that for me. Now it involves me more, so that my ‘I’ may become all the less in the presence of the ‘Thou’ of God and Neighbour.