30 January 2014
For those who know me, you know that deep down, inside, I am a big nerd. Some have even called me Sheldon, as in Sheldon Cooper, minus the supreme intelligence and plus a few extra pounds. Either way, as the nerd that I am, I have grown fond of channel 123 on my Sirius XM radio. This channel, aside from NPR and Entertainment Weekly, has gained a coveted place on my preset dial. It is the Public Radio Exchange, and it is composed of a mix matched assortment of stories from all around the country, and the world. I have grown to enjoy this station because of its eclectic mix of stories and topics. Of everything I have heard, however, there is one thing that stands out. Ironically, it isn't even a story, it is an ad for the station. The concept is quite fitting with the station, and is quite simple. It starts out with a young lady asking a simple question: "Who are you?" This alone is quite intriguing and thought provoking, and often serves as a springboard for a broad line of thoughts that can entertain me for a good while. The rest of the ad goes on to ask "... are you a collection of stories? Or DNA?" In essence, yes and yes, but then, there is also plenty for me to think about in those two questions. In reality, up until a few months ago, I knew exactly who I was. I was Fr. Rick, I wore black and had a pretty tight schedule that I could swear by. Things were quite easy, even when I had to be at the hospital at 3a.m. But now? Who am I? I was recently asked to participate in a local retreat that would be taking place this Spring. I would serve as a support in the background and nothing more. After word of this got out, I was advised against taking on this role. For the good of those participating in the retreat, it was better for me to not help so as not to confuse the faithful by having this pseudo priest on the team. Not wanting to get into a mess or worse, to cause a hindrance to the retreat, I chose to not serve. All this being said, the question "Who are you?" has been rattling around in my head. According to the Institutional Church, I am a priest "not suitable for ministry," to some of the workers at the company, I am "el pastor," or "padrecito," or just "boss." I answer to all this, but in the end, I must confess, there is a sort of identity crisis that I am currently undergoing. The reality of all this, however, and perhaps an important lesson that is becoming more evident to me, is that in our lives, as much as we may deny it, we need others to help shape us into who we are. As much as I would enjoy living the life of a monk, I cannot, and will not find true life or myself in that solitude. Of course, there is always room in silence to know a deeper truth, and silence is a necessary part of living a balanced life, but there is also that need to reach out to another. This reaching out is evidenced in the reaching out that Jesus did throughout so many of the stories we have become all too familiar with. This reaching out, for him, was not just going to the leper and saying "hey, wanna hang out?" no, it was a profound and challenging experience that touched on the question "Who am I?" The leper, at that time, was an outcast, unclean, impure and unwanted, precisely the type of person who needed to be left alone and gotten away from, but even there, in the remote stretches of humanity, Christ became present. Love reached beyond where love was supposed to reach, and in that action, we were forever to be challenged by our concept of who is deserving of love, or not. Or maybe, I should say, that by Love reaching beyond the comfort zones of society, the unsuitable became suitable, an in your face reminder that Love cannot be contained, and that Christ must not be an excuse. Either way, I am growing, and the more I am reminded that I am to be, the more I strive to love and to be love for others. I cannot guarantee that I will do this always, but I certainly will continue to do my best to love, because in the end, whether an institution says that I am good or not, I am, because I love, and because I am loved. And so, the journey continues. As always, know that I love you. RL.
17 January 2014
Working out at the pipe yard has been a different experience from the church which I served for so long. The work looks different and may appear to be dirtier, but I have come to learn some very important lessons from the few months that I have been out here. First of all, we can't do this alone. At our company, there are people with all sorts of backgrounds, one in particular stands out in my mind. He is one that has had a very troubled past, has had legal problems and has had confrontations with all sorts of workers here. For a while, I considered him a pain to have to deal with and even suggested having him removed from the roster, luckily, I wasn't listened to and he is still here. Instead, he was placed with a different worker and lo and behold, he is working differently, better. To my surprise, he has taken well to working in this new team, and has adapted well to a structured and organized team in which he feels comfortable to work. This has struck me, because no matter where we have been, or who we have been, we all need each other. Sure, there are some of us who believe ourselves to be anti-social or strongly introverted, but even we need to interact with others, even if its just to remind us that we have B.O. In either case, we are not meant to be solitary, nor are we intended to go through life alone and cold, this only leads to death, rather, as social beings, we are meant to go and take the hand of another, or at least a moment of their time, and to celebrate life with friends and family. A second lesson that I have learned, is that you don't always have to be living the dream to be happy, sure it helps, but as I have come to see in the workers' faces, there is a sense of joy in being happy in the moment. Here at the pipe yard, pay isn't necessarily good, nor is it clean or easy work, but somehow, the folks come and do what they can, the best that they can and live their lives with seeming joy. At first, I thought this strange and somewhat scary, "How can they be contnent?" I asked myself, but they are, and as I come and work and then go home, I can say that there is a sense of contentment in me also, not because I am doing so well financially or because I get to wear clean clothes, but because in these last few months, I have laughed more than in the past 5 years, and I have come to appreaciate the honesty of friendships that are born, not of my collar, or my title, but of authentic exchanges between, two, three or more human beings. OVerall, there are many lessons that can be learned day after day, and for this fool, who believed himself so wise to many things, life has proven that there is more to be learned, more to be seen, more to be lived. And so, I continue to respond to the call, to life, and along this journey, I am happy to enjoy the good moments and those that are more challenging, because in the end, I have love, I am loved, and I love. As such, know that you are loved. R.L.