As of tomorrow.
The discernment continues, but I’ve gotten some good insights and reflections in the time I’ve taken a break from my past topics. Did you catch the gospel this weekend? We got two homilies on it for a change this weekend. Fr Pat, former pastor, now retired and living in our community, preached the two evening Masses. Our associate preached the other two and also had a fine offering for us.
I’ve heard this reading, and the other versions of it for years now. When I was a kid, I couldn’t get out of the sense that it was directed, not only at me, but every Christian. Why, then, I thought, do believers not give up everything they have and follow Jesus? It seems as clear as day. At least it seemed that way to me at age 12. When I was young, I was saved from doing things like that by my parents, especially my mom.
An illustration: one year I decided to give up all liquids but water for Lent. My mother hrummphed and said I liked milk too much to give it up for forty days. Then she said I could drink it on Sunday and it would be okay. I declined. I hadn’t realized how steamed she was getting about it, until one day when she was serving dinner–it might have been the third or fourth week of Lent. She slammed a glass on the table, poured in milk to the rim, and said, “Drink it, buster! ‘Honor your mother’ trumps the forty days of Lent.”
Giving up milk for Lent was easy, as it turned out. I did like milk. Still do. Even today it would be easy to get out of the pattern of drinking milk–it would be more of a pattern adjustment than giving it up. My adolescent instinct, other than survival in my mother’s family, told me I had other Lenten observances. At that moment, I considered that drinking might be cowardly, but it might also be spiritually wise to accede to my mother–another sacrifice of ego and the will. I took the sip.
In a way, it seems it was a deeper realization of the Lenten sacrifice. I perceive that inner posture of sacrifice is part of the whole picture Jesus was driving at with the wealthy young man in today’s gospel. “We have given up everything to follow you,” Peter affirms. I can’t say that in middle life, with a family I have really given up “everything.” God knows there are things to which I cling tightly. But in my own indulgence with family, house, job, checkbook, and life in a well-off America, I have plenty of opportunities in which the Lord beckons me to sacrifice. I do well when I notice each of these and I can embrace the sacrifices as they appear.
In discerning gifts, I realized I still have that drive to do something wholeheartedly. I have the opportunity to do that in other forms of writing, mainly the ones connected with music. Through music, I can communicate more fully than I can in the straight-up writing format, especially on the internet. I’ve come to see that instead of carving out a few minutes now and then when I’m breaking from blogging, that the priority can be shifted. I can post once or twice on my day off, then work on my musical. I can eat a quick lunch and noodle at the piano for thirty or forty minutes. Instead of blogging after dinner, I can go to church early and before a meeting or rehearsal, play with words and music.
I thank my readers for their kind comments these past ten days. I appreciate your assistance in helping with my discernment. The Called and Gifted process has led me to a few observations–and these are mainly about myself. What I have to say about the blogosphere will be no real surprise to any of you who read it regularly.
First, I seriously doubt the mainstream Catholic blogosphere is an arena in which I think it is possible for me to do serious ministry or to share significant spiritual gifts–at least not on the scale and intensity and fruitfulness I can in real life. It may well be possible for others to do it better. Not me. If any of you are looking for the fullness of Catholic life, don’t look on the internet. The parish will give you all you need. Parishes did it before the internet, and they can still provide. (Even if they might need a strategically-placed kick to get going.)
For the time being, I plan to continue to blog. It’s a hobby–and that’s not too bad. But it’s not much more than that, just avocational theology, astronomy, and what would pass for friendly banter in the real world. (On the blogosphere, it gets you gossip and namecalling.) It’s a conversation among friends as well as doubters and, in a few cases, those antagonists. If some of you find some benefit, then God bless you for it, because I don’t feel as much of my own gifts in it as I would in my parish. If you get angry reading me, the best advice I can give you is to go away and not tempt yourself.
Every Lent I give up commenting on other blogs. I keep visiting friends, but I usually don’t surf the popular sites. Too much temptation to stir up the echo chamber. I drift back into it every Easter, but every year, it seems a little more wearisome. As part of my experiment, I’ve commented on other blogs in a limited way over the past ten days. My sense of it? Probably better to leave it than take it. It contributes nothing to the discussion. I can be insulting to people or I can offer a slight dissent from the echo. Either way the result is pretty much the same. Sandals. Dust. Shake. Have a nice life, I guess.
As for what I have to say about Catholicism, that will continue here for at least the next few months. I’ve never wavered from the sense this is a great time to be a Catholic, and a time of unsurpassed opportunity for the Catholic Church. If I think the pope, the bishops, clergy, other lay people, or even other bloggers are screwing up, I’ll tell it like I see it. When I mess up, I’ll strive to admit it. And I’ll add my own commentary on how we can do better. Arrogant? Probably. But this is the blogosphere, after all. Humility is often checked at the door here.
If readers have topics to suggest, feel free to e-mail me or suggest something in the combox below here.