Friday, January 14, 2005

Ministry, a response to Eric

"Eric, I've known hundreds of men who have walked these halls. Almost from the first moment they enter the door, I have a sense as to their calling and their future. When I first saw you, I knew you weren't called to the priesthood. Not everyone who enters this building are. But all are called by God to come here. All who walk here are brought by God to fulfill some purpose, to follow a call to serve God, either in active ministry, or in personal growth. The latter is no less significant that the former."

Ok, before I get into this piece, i am going to use a designation that comes from my own experience to set a tone and follow it. That term is "religious life."

When my grandmother Camille took me into that church, i still cannot recall the name, but i can tell you where it is, in New Britian Ct, and she presented me to God, I knew that day and still do today, that I am here for some "real" reason.

The fact that the 2 women i spent the first 3 years of my life, alone with... i was the first of 2 children. speaks volumes of WHAT i hold sacred unto myself. My parents were fall away Catholics after my mothers tubiligation after my brother was born... i don't talk about them, because they don't play into Any of my religious life.

I attended Sunday school as a young boy and made my first communion. Then there was a spread of time that passed that "church" would be left out of my life. Although religious education remained constant because i visited the family every Summer and for holidays. My grandmothers believed that I was destined for something, although the priesthood was high on that list of "things to do."

In high school, 10th grade, I entered St. Louis Catholic Church. It was the most amazing place I had ever seen. It was 1 block from the high school i attended. We went there every day for lunch, while there I got reacquainted with God. There was a man, Leroy was his name, he was the grounds keeper. On those lunches he would show me places in the church building. Those areas that regular church goers would not see, behind the scenes. ( There was a huge AV room above the altar to project and dispaly things). We were a 21st century parish, WAY ahead of the mainstream parish with hymnal churches.

Over the years I became enamored with the church. I was in my element. Gos was something that I could literally touch. I knew HIS name. And in a way I felt that He knew mine. i would visit the chapel daily and sit and pray my rosary.

I know that the 4 fathers would watch me from shadowed offices and they observed my goings on at mass. I could SAY mass as well as any of them. I mean i had a copy of the Eucharistic prayers at home that i would study. At teh same time I became an altar boy along with Dominic. He has made us all proud. Today he is a policeman for Miami. His father Ralph was the "head" of the altar boy group. He was a sainted man, who died 2 weeks too soon. We all loved him. Everybody knew him.

Anyway, i digress.

I served mass with religious piety. I was the angel on the altar. I knew that that is where i wanted to be, as often as I could. being that "close" to the mass was a cathartic experience. Knowing all the inside details of the parish gave me insight to God, thats what i thought. The good fathers were more than happy to talk to me when ever i stepped into the office. I had, at that time carte blance in the parish office. I volunteered to work on afternoons and weekends. I ran errands, folded bulletins, helped the priests in the rectory, whatever it was i was asked to do. ( I have to say here, that NEVER was i ever abused or taken advantage by any man of God I knew in my life). with that said i will continue.

In the 10th grade I made my "confirmation." it was on that day that I heard the voice call me. So i followed. I did it all by the numbers. By the time I hit 12th grade, I was in the space that all the priests has greatfully signed a collective letter to reccommended me into St. John Vianney Seminary in Miami. I made all the appointments for spiritual direction. There were many. They administered the Myers Briggs and all those tests to make sure I was mentally ready or prepared for this. I guess I passed, because they let me attend.

I began this writing with a quote from Eric's latest entry. I never got those words from anyone when I left the seminary. let me go back and tell a few stories.

There were a number of priests that i was to choose my S.D. from. He was a Jesuit. Every week i would enter his room and sit in a chair and he would follow with the same 3 questions....every week. ( can you guess what those questions were??) I LIED !!! I only told 3 lies in Seminary.
I didn't think HE needed that kind of information.

I never embraced my sexuality back then, because i was too religiously focused on God and my time in the seminary. Although, from last nights writing, i said that Others HAD. The boys who wafted down the hall in their cassocks with crosses banging on their chests, seriously had a complex about something. Most of them aspired to be POPE !! God help the church. I find it peculiarly SCARY, that many years after my seminary experience, the one boy who made my skin crawl, he thought he was so pious and holy, walked around blessing people lile the pope, it came to pass one day that I turned the TV on, and low and behold there he was saying mass on TV. ( Kudos chris, you made it...but at what cost). We did not get along. He was the most condescending person I had ever met.

The secrets one keeps inside the walls destroys lives. And I often ponder, what had happened with those young men who were sexually involved with the fags at St. John's. I use that word because it fits the generalization. They knew, i think, that I had a problem. BUT, to my surprise nobody talked to me about it. I loved seminary. Sexuality was NOT the question i grappled with. What I was supposed to do WAS. Had I completed my training I cannot tell you what side of the fence I would have ended up on, I can tell you this, had i stayed inside the walls, i would most likely sacrificed everything i owned to serve God, where ever that might have been. The chapel was a place a great holiness. I had met people/teachers, that would impact my future, in hindsight. I prayed as if it would truly get me in the back door. Yeah, you pray to Mary, because SHE had the keys to the back door of everything Jesus.

For today, the questions I have is why does the church attack gays so badly, when a high number of their populations ARE gay, whether inside the closet or Out. Why are they so threatened when they are guilty in prepetuating the highest number of sexually related crimes agains young people! What are they trying to hide, i bet you I know.

You see, if the church speaks out in favor of Gays, THEN they quietly admit that they know about the sins of the "fathers." and thereby condoning the behavior amongst their own ranks. What a wicked web we weave !!!

There are many things I can ponder from Erics writing.

1. Why did I go to seminary?
Because I thought I had a calling.
2. Did it make a difference in my life?
Yes, because at the end of a year, i realized that to compromise a calling with shades and colors of politics would have only hurt me as a priest, had i finished.
3. Did I follow God, when I left?
Yes, after a little soul searching.
4. Did i fulfill some purpose?
yes, i believe I did. I am the "prayer" for my family whether they know that or not. I may not have any children, but I do have many SONS. Every day I try to do something productive and good.
5. Have i grown personally?
Yes, I have. Like Donald told me, The church is human, led by humans, who don't always get it right. Feminism...well, we all know that women HAD a distinct role in Jesus' ministry. However the church wants to bury that truth, It is documented. If it were not for key women, in Jesus' life, some of the main lessons in his teachings would never have come to pass.
6. Do I believe I am still called?
Yes, I do. I/we/you are called to be witnesses to something greater than ourselves. There is a God and where ever you choose to seek him, is your buisness. That you seek him is the key!!
Jared tells us that, to question religion is to beleive in something. The desire to seek comes from within, and from without.

This is ministry at its bear bones. To share belief and life stories about religion means that it meant something to write about it. That it mattered to us, tells readers that we Had and continue to have a relationship with something GREATER than ourselves.

Last year one of the men of the chapel had mentioned something in passing to me. He said that maybe I should check out the deaconate program here in Montreal. I forgot about that until just now. What the future holds in my "religious life" is still unknown, and I like it that way.


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