Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Homeless Muse

I have been busy in the usual ways. Work, family, holidays. Keeping up with prayer and church, but not having much time for writing. I do not regret the lack of time. It is simply a fact of life.

Now that I have time to write, I realize that time is not what was lacking, but action. Christian action. Helping others. Over the past few days I made some efforts to help others, a homeless man, a woman who clearly needed some assistance, serving at church, donating to a child-relief program in the Philippines. Doing these things served to lift me out of my train of thought - mere thought - and place me in terms of action.

Action. Writing is action, I realize. It is not merely putting thoughts into words. I am better able to write now, not because I have time, but because I am in an active frame of mind. I was passive - waiting for opportunities to help, waiting for time to write - then I became active. So now I write.

Who do I thank for this? I thank the Lord, who always has my back. And I thank, in particular, Paulie, the homeless man I assisted. Well, Paulie, wherever you are, we said we would pray for each other. I hope that my prayers for you have been as effective as yours were for me!

That the prayers of a homeless person would be heard should not surprise us, even as we are accustomed to take pity on those who live without creature comforts. Spending time with people in need, I am not so quick to assume that the line between us is perfectly defined. I know the benefit that I receive from helping others, and I am aware of the blessing a person confers on me by allowing me to help them.

Perhaps this matrix applies to writing. The act of writing is, to my mind, a broadcasting of intentions, hopefully good ones. Those intentions are perceived by others, who in turn are (again, hopefully) strengthened in their own work. In all of this, there is prayer. Contemplative prayer in the mental work of arriving at the right words to suit the occasion, and dynamic prayer in publishing one's work, or reading the work of others.

I will write as others write, as others compose music, paint pictures, arrange flowers. We are, in action, the visible manifestation of what God has intended for us as a means of broadcasting our intentions. We live and love; work and play. Some make art, some make friends. There is a greater equality to our lives than we can ever comprehend. To say that we are brothers and sisters in Christ seems to me not to quite capture the magnificent implications of universal equality.

I say I helped Paulie; I know he helped me. But can I encompass in mind and heart that we are one?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Catechumen no more

It has been just over two years since I decided to join the Catholic church. I attended RCIA studied and attended RCIA classes. I attended Mass and joined in the service at my church. I took my initiation further and, last year, read the entire bible and catechism. I read through the entire bible again this year along with my Dad. I have done little other reading than prayer books. All this time, I have been studying and thinking and living my life as a Catholic.

Now, as I concluded the second round of bible readings, I feel like I have finally completed my studies. I actually was not aware that I had not completed anything. I have been in full communion since Easter Vigil, 2012. But I reflect that in the early days of the church, catechumens often underwent a period of two or more years before being accepted into the church.

Well, perhaps, because I have focused on this aspect of my life so intently, I now am capable of knowing that I belong. This belonging resides first and foremost in being confident in the Lord as my model. And I am confident in what I must do. And that is to love God as I am loved and to love and serve my neighbors as God commands me to do. 

Pretty simple, right? But confidence means that I trust myself to do the right thing. I don't merely preach it or criticize others. I don't need to, and I don't want to. Part of this belonging depends, I think, on having set certain priorities straight, including getting back to volunteer work for the homeless. Besides what I might do for myself and my own relationship with God, there is no greater need or call, in my mind, than attending to the needs of others.

Again, pretty simple. But it has been a lot of work to get to the point where one's heart can confidently, knowingly, reside in these activities, without anxiety, or second-guessing.

In short, I have no particular ambitions, except to live wisely, kindly, and well, and to do good. However or in whatever ways my weaknesses lead me astray, I know what lies at the center of my life. That, in itself, appears to me as a kind of living testimony to the named and the unnamed, the perfect and the fluid.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Prayer/Obsession/Prayer

I only just wrote, obliquely, it is true, on aspects of poetry writing in a blog titled form/obsession/form. This then is a companion piece, or a reverse parody, where the ensuing article is more genuine than its sponsor.

I find this sort of reverse relationship - a kind of hermetical child-is-father-to-the-man - operating with increasing frequency. At 54 years of age, I may be tending toward more and more fluid considerations  or comprehensions of time. Faith is a great denominator for the numerators of our time. We do not say yes or no, said St. Paul. We say yes. That makes sense to me now, having entered the Church.

But, prayer. Ah, I have written on repetition in prayer once and will not do it again. I am not running for office. I am not selling anything. These words are the product of time & inclination, and are in large part owing to a patient wife who allows me time to trundle myself off to a local establishment for the relative peace & quiet of a jukebox the better to dwell in and relate such thoughts as occur to me.

But prayer & obsession.... There is a loaded pairing. As a writer, I am given over to working in a particular form. As a Catholic, I have experienced prayer in repetition and in devotion; prayer to God, often in singular form, and more often in forms of prayer, the Rosary being an obvious example.

Are such practices "obsessive." It is a fair question, but one that from a Catholic perspective is impossible to comprehend or respond to. I use the word "impossible" to a point. We are instructed by the Lord to pray "constantly." Now, you can say that means "pray a lot" or "keep God in mind" or some variation, but either way, right there we can see a kind of mandate to obsess, if by obsess we mean one-mindedness.

But, what other life is available to the Christian? To cut to the chase: am I obsessed by the Lord? Well, if you mean, do I hold the entire world and it's effects as nothing compared to my love of the Lord and my trust in his promise, yes. Do you think that Catholic prayers are "obsessive" because they are routine, dutiful, and unvarying? Again: guilty! Of course they are. How else should we express our love? By waiting until we "feel" it.

Well, maybe I am Catholic because I don't have to wait until I "feel" like praying to pray. I pray because I believe in it. We pray the Rosary, the daily Mass intentions, the Divine Office, Novenas, etc., etc., not as obsessions, but because that is part of our life on earth as Catholics. That is part of our devotion. A necessary part.

I will say this. At 54 years old, I have never felt as balanced, personally, as having joined the Catholic church and adopting a consistent routine of prayer. Now, I have to say, I am not as perfectly regular, day to day, as some. But I consider that a kind of privilege, not a blight on my "record."

I hope I am alert. If that is obsessed, count me in.