Tag Archives: evangelical counsels

Some Thoughts Prior to My Mission in New Mexico

Needless to say, the last 6 months have been different than most.  They have been filled with doubts, consolations, struggles, even isolation.  The direction my life is taking me is not one that I had expected, nor one that I even wanted.  But Christ’s hand is so clearly there, that I cannot but say yes to where I am going.  The more I pray and reflect on what I am to embark on, the more I think “wow, what a gift”.

The gift, however, is scary.

It is scary because there is nothing more profound than the encounter with Christ in the poor.  When you encounter that real presence of Christ in the face of the downtrodden, the isolated, the forgotten, you really encounter Him.  When you encounter Him, it scares you because you realize everything has to change in your life to conform to Him Whom you are serving.  I know this because I have encountered this numerous times in my life.

Often we run away from the poor because Christ in them challenges us to a far more radical life devoted to Him.

The more I reflect on this, the more I realize that my fears, struggles, torments are not due to the “sudden shift” that has taken place.  So I’m not going to be in the seminary next year, so I’m going to a new place.  Yes, fear comes with this, but it goes away quite quickly.

No, these elements in my life are of a spiritual nature: they are of the devil because they are trying to turn me away from the face of Christ.  Perhaps a part of me is too attached to certain things in life, and to encounter Christ in the poor forces me to re-assess these attachments.  Perhaps I have been fighting my trip not because it is uncomfortable and different – it is that, though.  No, I think in this situation I have at times fought with it because it means I am going to have to change my life.  It is going to have to change completely.  And it is not the demand of a vengeful God that is going to do this to me.  It is going to be the encounter with that gaze of Love that transformed the world on the Cross 2000 years ago.  True Love, that love that expends itself totally for you, that is what changes the heart that is open to receiving it.  I know in my life that I am not only open to receiving it, but I desperately want it.

But that desire that is at the core of my heart is a desire that scares me because it means I will no longer be the same.  I will no longer enjoy the same things I do now, nor even be able to participate in the friendships and so forth that I do now.  This is because it means that Christ becomes my total focus.  It means choosing Him above all else.

This is the challenge of life: to choose Christ and Him alone, in all situations and circumstances.  It is lofty, and scary. We do not even realize how deep that call goes because we avoid the people and times that give us the opportunity to encounter Him.  We must take Matthew 25 as literally as possible.

When one encounters Him in the lonely, the destitute, the abandoned, the thirsty, the hungry, the diseased, it is truly an encounter with Him.  What scares me is also what gives me the greatest sense of hope.

And so I prepare myself for this journey in two weeks.  I have no doubts that I will come back a different man than I was before, but one more filled with joy and purpose and devotion than I am now.  That is what encountering Christ does to us.  It is a profound gift He offers us, if we only had the ears and heart to hear Him.  I am afraid of the future because I know not what it holds, but as one friend recently said to me in an e-mail, quoting the Gospels: “Behold, I will go before you to Galilee and will meet you there”.  He really is there to guide, guard, and protect.  I know this in my heart of hearts.  And I know that what is stony in my heart now will be turned into flesh with an encounter with the Risen Lord in the faces of the poor and abandoned.

Yes, it will challenge me to a greater poverty, a greater simplicity of life, a greater life of prayer, a greater life of obedience, a growing in having a chaste heart focused solely on the Lord.  It will, in the ancient sense of the term, encourage me to become more evangelical and to embrace the counsels of apostolic life.

And so I go with a whole whack of different emotions in my heart.  It is my hope that when the odd opportunity allows, I will be using my blog to share brief updates whenever I can get to a computer, which I do not expect to happen very often.  But when I do, I will update the blog to let people know what is happening, and how the encounter with Jesus Christ is helping me in my vocational call as a diocesan priest.  I ask for your prayers and also, if you wish for me to pray for you, please simply contact me.  I would encourage you to subscribe via e-mail if you wish for updates as I do not know when or how often I will be updating.  This way, you will get a direct e-mail in your inbox with my updates.

For those who read the blog and are unaware, I will be working for 6 months with the Missionaries of Charity in Gallup, New Mexico in their mission of serving the poorest of the poor.  This is part of my formation on the path, hopefully, towards priesthood.

Sincerely in Christ

-Harrison

 

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More on Vocation, Discernment, and “Pastoral Response”

If you are wondering why I’ve been posting so much on vocation, it is because I have been, in the past few weeks, steeped in researching and writing a talk I will be giving at The Northwest Catholic Family Education Conference in less than two weeks.  The topic has, it seems, fostered a LOT of conversation among people.  I wish people would comment on the blog and not just my facebook page as I know the others who read these posts would appreciate their comments, since it creates for interesting discussion.

I want to begin by talking about the concept of pastoral response.  In my last post, I put forward that the concept of praying for vocations to the single life were probably due to the Church’s desire to offer some sort of pastoral comfort for those who have found themselves without a particular vocation.  I bring this up because I want to offer one suggestion of what would create an appropriate pastoral response on the part of the Church.

First off, a pastoral response should always be rooted in good theology, and theology should be based in good practice.  In other words, practice and truth always go hand in hand.  So, the Church’s response must always be rooted in her constant teaching.  I bring this up because I believe the Church has received a gift that is not used often enough: that gift is the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius.  I have been reading a few books lately that have all lead me to discovering in a deeper way his concepts of discernment.  What I find so refreshing in his thought is the constant clarity that he offers in the realm of discernment.  So often, when it comes to the spiritual life in general, and in particular discerning a vocation, so many factors get in the way of seeing clearly what it is God has for our life.  Discernment is not meant to be a complicated process.

Yet, we live in a world where complication seems to be the norm of life.  Emotions, circumstances, relations, finances, etc, all get in the way of our seeing clearly what it is God wants for us.  I say all this not as a pre-cursor to elucidating St Ignatius’ method of discernment: I have not read enough on the exercises to adequately comment on them yet.  Rather, what I have discovered in him is clarity, and I think the Church would do well to listen to the gift St Ignatius offers so as to better guide people in the realm of discernment.  I look around and see many people who are confused vocationally: they are legitimately frozen when it comes to making a vocational choice.  Yet the big reason many are “vocationally frozen” is because they have not received adequate education and direction in the realm of discernment.  If only every priest were given adequate training in the exercises, they would be able to help and guide those who come to them in confession and for spiritual guidance.  That is just one point: discernment would be a lot easier if people were given the adequate tools, provided by St Ignatius, to discern things in their lives.

Now, to comments people posted on Facebook.

One person commented asked about the person for whom both religious life and marriage turn out to be a practical impossibility.  This is true, it happens.  There is a difference between one being called either naturally or supernaturally – what we call the objective call because it is outside of the person called – and the ability to respond and discern – the subjective element of the call.  We must admit to the fact that what we live in is a fallen world.  It means that a variety of circumstances arise which are not in our control which thus affect our ability to respond to a call.  Perhaps there is sickness in our life, or perhaps the person we are called to marry doesn’t necessarily present themselves, or perhaps the bishop or religious order we appeal to for entrance into priesthood or religious life is not open to hearing God’s call and affirming it in us.  There are a variety of things which could thus get in the way.  I don’t want to make it seem that people are worse off if they are single and without fulfilling a vocation.  It does indeed happen.  What I am simply trying to say is that objectively, each person has a call to either priesthood/religious life or to marriage.  Subjectively, it may not be possible to sufficiently respond through no fault of the person called.  There are many nuances here that, unfortunately, a blog post can’t cover.

Someone made a comment that some people live as single persons by choice, out of a sense of vocation: teachers, activists, etc.  They went on to say that vowdness seems to imply only being part of a religious order.  I made a minor comment in that post which may have gone unknown to many readers, and that was the concept of the private vow.  Just because someone does not make formal vows does not mean they are not living vows in their lives.  In the end, every Christian is called to the counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  Some are called to live it more literally than others.  So many people who, to us, would be singles, would, in a way, be living a religious vocation.  Perhaps they’ve made a vow in their heart to God, through prayer, through a spiritual director.  In some cases, this vowdness may not even manifest itself in an entirely clear way even to them, but it will take form in their lives.

in Christ

-Harrison

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Radical Christianity

I have always been a believer in the idea the Christianity is a faith of radicality.  Radical comes from a Latin word which means root.  Christianity, therefore, is radical because it goes to the very root of the person, calls them out of therselves toward the dynamic and exciting life in Christ.  In short, Christianity is radical: it calls our whole being to renewal, to transformation in Christ.

This is all well and good, I am sure you are saying.  I must admit, first and foremost, that I am always weary about talking about this, only because I know myself that I am a weak individual who fails daily at livnig out the radical call of the Gospel.  Christ lived poverty: I go to starbucks for a coffee.  Christ lived obedience: I kick and scream (in a figurative way) when things don’t go my way.  Christ lived chastity: I am unable each day to give myself completely in my being to Christ.  So I am weary of this because I am also called to that renewal, that deep call of Christ because I too am a weak individual in need of the grace, love, and mercy of Christ.

Yet, despite my weakness, I know that the Gospel is rather uncompromising in this regard.  While we are not all called to live the same radicalness in our external lives as Christians, we are called to live it internally, and the means for living the image Christ desires for us comes through living the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience.

I will say more about all this in a future post, but I say this all as a pre-amble to a great article I read on Patheos today.  It is worth your reading because it is from a woman who is not religious, but who believes that Christianity is meant to be radical, and that it is meant to be lived by everyone according to the evangelical counsels.  Please give it a read and, if you like it, please post your feedback.

http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Freak-for-Christ-The-Cost-of-Conversion-Heather-King-05-04-2011?offset=0&max=1

in the Risen Christ

-Harrison

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