Greetings to you all, it's been a while. I hope you are doing well. Life has been quite interesting for me since my last post. First of all, I have left the everlasting sands of West Texas for the beautiful beaches of San Diego, California. I have been here since July 6, and have slowly but surely begun to live. Life hasn't been easy, but things look good, and I am well. Where ever you may be, I pray that you are well and in the grace of God's love.
And now for the blog...
This past Sunday was the Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, and boy, oh boy, was it a doozy! If you were tuning in to last week's readings, like me, you might have come into church with a bit of a glow about you. For some reason, every time I read Peter's response to Jesus' question "Who do you say that I am?" I can't help but feel proud and happy about the fact that I too have encountered The Christ, the Son of God, and that I am able to serve Him. But then comes the second part of that beautiful passage, yep, that's the one, the one where Jesus REBUKES Peter, You know, the one where Jesus goes off and says "GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN!" So many times, I have wanted to skip that passage and read whatever came next, maybe some more happy stuff. The reality, however, is that I need to hear that passage, over and over again, and as difficult as it may be, it is good to hear it, and to reflect on those times when I too need a good rebuking by Jesus. The funny thing is that the sting didn't come so much because Jesus rebuked Peter, more than that, the sting comes from the realization that I have done something that was not in line with what God was asking of me. Just when I believed that I had figured God out, I am rebuked, not by God, but by my own actions. This is what stings the most about these passages, not that Jesus is rebuking, but that I am becoming aware of those things which I am lacking in my life, and even with Jesus in my life, I may come to find that there just isn't enough vitamin Jesus, and that is where I hurt when called out. This year, the passage carries a special weight, perhaps even more than ever before. You see, it just so happens that this month is 10 months since my formal resignation from my active ministry as a priest. Now don't get me wrong, it was a painful decision to make, and I miss the ministry very much, but it was a decision that came after fighting an invisible enemy. (At this point, I will disclose some sensitive material, feel free to continue reading, or go hear for a happy moment: http://catholicmemes.tumblr.com )
And we continue. The reason I have decided to bring this information up at this time, is due in part to the challenge that I am facing right now. Since the first day of seminary, my dream was to serve the people of God in a manner that was humble and holy. Perhaps too naively, I focused on Christ and my ultimate goal of serving as a priest. Yes, there were moments of difficulty and question, but in the recesses of my heart, I never doubted that even through me, God could do great things. I persevered and did what I could. On August 1, 2005, I professed my First Vows as a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate. My journey continued from Miami to Godfrey, Illinois, and then to San Antonio, Texas. I remember going to George Sexton, OMI House and finding my room on the upstairs East corner. I settled in and before I knew it, school. My internship in August of 2008 sent me to Mary Immaculate Parish in Pacoima, CA. There, I came to see myself in a new light, as a minister to a diverse group of people. I made some dear friends that I treasure to this day, and was challenged by other people that I was quite happy to leave. I returned to Sexton House in the Fall of 2009, and shortly thereafter, I professed my Final Vows as an Oblate. Finally, my journey was beginning a transformation that would culminate in my ordination. On October 9, 2009, I was ordained a Deacon, and on May 22, 2010, I was ordained a priest, along with two other wonderful men. The three of us were then sent to mission, one to Laredo, Texas, another to Tijuana, Mexico, and myself to Chula Vista, California, and the Church of the Most Precious Blood. I arrived there around 9pm on a Thursday night and was very pleased to be helped by some men of the parish. Quickly my car was unloaded and my ministry started. I was given the task of being a minister to the Spanish community, and while there were challenges, together we accomplished many great things for the Latino Community. The year was a great year, and I was soon ready for my mission of Beijing, China. With this being said, I must make it clear that while I enjoyed my service, I found my life in community to be lacking and contrary to anything I had ever experienced before. To the Pastor, I was nothing more than a temporary person meant to ease his burden. At one point, I was even told not to think, to create, or to do anything other than celebrate the sacraments. As for the Sacraments, I was to only celebrate those that were scheduled, anything else would often result in my being reprimanded and told to stop being to pius. I was even given the nickname Buddah one time when I was hearing a lady's confession. This constant barrage of dictations from my pastor began to wear on me, but with the ignorance and naivete of a new priest, I persevered (as a good Oblate) and did what was expected of me. Before I knew it, my time was done and I was supposed to get ready for Beijing. This was never to be, however. Before my scheduled departure, I was told that there had been some concerns about me. When I asked for clarification as to what the concerns were, I was told that it was not important. When I inquired as to who had raised these concerns, I was told that it was not important. After that very deflating encounter, I was asked to go to a rehab facility under supervision. Not knowing what or why I was asked to do so, I refused. Instead, I chose a retreat place that would serve as a happy middle point for both my superiors and myself. While there, I can honestly say that I flourished, and after psychological evaluations and other tests, I was found to be Not Crazy. Instead, they confirmed what I knew all along, I am smarter than average. (Well, of course!) Even after these tests, my superior refused to acknowledge that I was not what the "concerns" had said about me. In October of 2011, my life was to change again. On the 25th, at around 2:41pm, I received a simple voice mail from my brother, "Don't hurry home anymore, Dad's at rest." In a matter of only a few hours, my dad had gone from feeling sick, to being dead. This took me home and into a different battle. At home, I celebrated my father's funeral. I stayed home and asked my superiors for some time at home. I was granted two weeks which I refused. I needed to be home, and I was going to stay. In November of that year, after having been told by the local Oblate pastor that I was not welcome at his parish, I was invited to a very different world of the Diocesan clergy, I began serving at my home parish and once again loved God in my service. I started the 5 year process of become a Diocesan priest, and this was a great joy. I was beginning to take hold of my vocation and was loving every minute of it. I served (well, i believe) and started building relationships with clergy like never before. My first year of living with the pastor in Chula Vista, was slowly being revealed for what it had been, an abuse. After almost two years of working in the Diocese, life was once again to take a turn. In March of 2013, after returning from a mission in Honduras, I was told that my process of joining the Diocese was abated. I would have to commence an entirely new process. It was here that I began a difficult but necessary discernment process. Would I continue to fight the Oblates, the powers at be, or step aside. After much prayer, discernment, tears and pain, I chose to no longer fight the Oblates and their "concerns" furthermore, I understood that my resignation would entail a great deal of pain and difficulty for me, but I was tired, and I wouldn't fight.
On October 7, 2013, I formally resigned. Life was changed.
Since then, I have continued to be the victim of superiors that "invite" me to resign my priesthood, or those who "encourage" me to leave the diocese. Through it all, I have come to know God in radically different and surprising ways. I have heard things about me that were at times funny, and on other occasions, hurtful. I slowly began to walk as a person no longer "suitable for ministry" and did my best to continue ministering beyond the church walls.
All this I write because it has been a part of a process that was commenced by unknown voices. The concerns that I was told about were never specified, and I often felt I was fighting an unseen enemy. I even considered a radical diet, just in case my weight was the "concern." What has most surprised me though, is what I have learned since arriving in San Diego. As it turns out, there were at least three main "concerns" that were brought up against me. I have come to these after hearing about them from friends who are not connected to each other at all. These concerns were challenging in and of themselves, and I believe can be refuted by my person, and denied by those who know me. They are dangerous and hurtful, and have proven damaging to me as a person and as a priest. They are three main ones, and they are these. First, it was said that I was a thief, having stolen from the collection plate and even taken things after my departure from Precious Blood. I find this funny, especially since even today, they use lectionaries, missals and even a chalice that I left behind, as well as a Book of Gospels. The second thing was that during my time in Chula Vista, I was having an inappropriate sexual relationship with either one of two sisters, or some guy. Both of these claims are wrong. The third claim was that I was too sexually repressed and thus hid behind my priesthood to relieve the sexual tension. All I can say to this is ABSURD! Although I know this is a long reflection, I write it because I believe that like Peter, I too had grown careless in believing that what I was doing was the right way. Obviously, what I was doing was wrong, and while my work was good, I needed the change. Today, my journey clearly continues, more than ever, I feel a strong call to my priesthood, but have been surprised by how God is revealing the path that I must follow. I find the accusations against me to be horrible and maybe even evil, but out of those tombs, I will live as CHrist calls, and it will be good. I am who I am, and in my life, I will do my best to allow Christ's mercy to reveal my path, I walk along a path that has been set before me, and I will be faithful to the call that I felt in my heart so long ago, to a be a servant who brings the Good News of God's love. A love that calls us each beyond our tombs into new life, a love that calls me today, to newness and joy. As always, I love you. Thank you for your time and God bless. Fr. Rick