07 December 2013
It has now been two months since my faculties as a Roman Catholic priest were officially revoked. Since then, I have been working at my family's company which my dad started almost 30 years ago. The time has flown by rather quickly, but in the two months that I have been living this new life, there have been many things that I did not expect. I think the one that stands out the most is the fact that I have time. I have time to myself, time to read, time to laugh, time to enjoy with family, and most importantly, time to be with God. Of all the changes that have come in these short couple of months, my time with God has been the most significant. Since very early on, I have known God to be my lover, and from the very beginning, I looked toward God as I imagined a couple in love does for one another. This relationship was beautiful and life giving. In my relationship with God, I felt great peace and joy, I knew a life that was calm and good even during stressful times. This relationship, however, as so many can so easily do, started to become weak and corroded. In time, I started to put God aside as I tried to go about doing His work. Ironically enough, I had become an agent of God, but in doing so began to drift away from the essence of my call, primarily, my relationship with God. I knew my lover and tried to do His work, but slowly, I drifted away from Him and as St. Paul warns, became an empty cymbal. All this became more pronounced as I began to face pressure from my religious congregation. After stating to them that I needed and wanted to join the diocese, they rejected my petition and called me to obedience, but obedience to what? As I discerned and prayed about my call, I had to be honest with myself. In all that I was doing, there was a vital part missing. I was spending myself and doing so much "good," but for what? God was no longer a part of any of that. I had to make a decision. Around March, I started seeing Fr. John, and Episcopalian priest that had been recommended as a spiritual director. Although I was uncertain about having him as my director, I figured there could be no harm. Our journey began and through our time together, this gentle man who had lived so much and known God's great love in so many different ways, began to show me a path of service that was very different from what I had figured was the only way. In his walking with me, I was amazed hear from his own life how so many paths had diverged and brought him to where he is today. He helped me understand that responding to God's love in service is so much more than a collar and a set of vestments, it is loving in a radical and profound way, a manner in which lives are touched and changed, including my own. This is not to say that I hadn't ever been touched as a priest, but for some reason, I had started to become cold and indifferent. A call to the hospital was just that, a call. Mourning was a mask that would be put on and taken off as soon as the service was over, only on a few occasions did I truly feel compassion for the people I served, but these occasions were becoming far and few between. In our conversations, Fr. John challenged me to reevaluate my vocation and to be honest, really honest with myself. At this point, another great man helped in my discernment as I opened up to him as well. My pastor was not happy to hear of where I was being lead, but he was supportive and provided a guidance that was confident and professional. In the months between my first deciding to be honest about my vocation and finally resigning from my post as Parochial Vicar of St. Ann's Catholic Church, I lived a fear that permeated my being. This fear, however, was not something that paralyzed me or stunted my discernment. It was something that allowed my honesty to be more prevalent. I had nothing to hide behind, and no excuse would suffice, I was being called to something different, and I had to go. When the decision was finally reached to resign on the 7th of October, I once again started to feel the great peace that had once been the key in my relationship with God. With this peace, came also hope. Hope brought life, and this life has brought me back to God, in whom I have found more life. And so, two months later, here I am, sitting in the office which I have known so well since my dad started the company, outside, the temperature is 16 degrees and the world is still, but I am alive, doing well and ready to go out and proclaim to all how good is God's love. A few weeks ago someone told me that they were praying as I struggled with my vocation, I told them that I appreciated their prayer, but that I was no longer struggling, I have started reconnecting with my love, God and this is all good. Two months and the love which I once felt so strongly, a love that brought me to give everything up, has started to be rekindled, and I too am living a life that is me. As God wants me. Collar or not, I will serve, because I have known great love. As always, know that I love you. R.L.