Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent and Some Songs

We've entered into one of my most favorite times of year. It's not because of corny Christmas music (though I confess that I enjoy much of it), and it's certainly not because of the cold and gray and darkness in se. I love, love, LOVE the season of Advent. We just had a reflection on this tonight, and I've thought about it many times before.

Firstly, I love Advent simply because of the continuity the new liturgical year holds with the old: the Church does a lovely job of switching from talk of the End Times and the eschaton into the time of preparation both for remembering Christ's Incarnation and for His Second coming. It works so well that we remember those who have died with All Saints' and All Souls' Days in November and discuss the End Times in each Sunday's readings. December seems almost a second time to reflect on those words and ponder and work to put them into action in our own lives. To ponder mortality, our poverty of finitude, and reflect on how clearly we are NOT God both in November and as we begin a new liturgical year is fitting during a time of cold, darkness, and possible isolation. The mood that winter sets, that quasi-seasonal affective disorder (or real for those who truly suffer from it), allows us to reflect on the knowledge of our own deaths. They may come soon, they may not, but they truly will come. There is no way to escape it. I find that the thought can almost be paralyzing, but it's a moment of honesty. Death will come. We will be put face to face with Jesus. We will (perhaps the more terrifying aspect of it all) come face to face with ourselves, how we truly are: both what lies in our hearts and what our actions tell of us; both our intentions and how our actions are interpreted by others.
Perhaps this is why I have issue with some songs sung at Mass, e.g. "Send Down the Fire of Your Justice." I guess I just have issue with that line, as it's sung in such a joyful way. There's so much more to Christ's Majesty than everybody celebrating in love and going to heaven. There's the painful realization of what has gone on in our lives, how far we are from perfect, and justice is the last thing I want to be raining down at the moment. To understand a little more how I feel, try googling the image of "national shrine upper church mosaic" to get a look at a jacked, Arian Jesus who's got a blazing look in his eyes that you KNOW will make any feeble excuse wilt and/or melt away. That look would only let the absolute and piercing truth remain, which is beautiful, don't get me wrong, but it's intimidating to say the least. I don't think it's theologically WRONG to sing those lines with that tone. But how many people actually reflect on what the words mean, reflect on the mystery, and then come to sing it with a trust that with justice will also be mercy? To sing that song without having some pause is either to be trite and glib or perfectly trusting in God. It's like what the Beavers say about somebody looking Aslan in the eye without trembling in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Getting off of that tangent, I love Advent because of the time of year in which it falls (both liturgically and temporally) and I love it because it addresses a fundamental characteristic of being Christian. Christ brought God to the world, but the world persists in evil. We still await the coming of the Lord in glory. We still have to face our own demons. We still have to face our death. Advent is a time to reflect on that, like I said. It's a time to ponder in fear and trembling our frailty and dependence on God. We depend on God because of that frailty, but it's not a grudging dependence on a distant or cold God, nor is it a dependence whose hope disappoints. We hope and wait for God, trusting God, having that final unity with God be a guide to help us as stable footing through an uncertain present. This is why I love the song "My Soul In Stillness Waits." Advent is a time of realizing that we are in process, on a journey, still becoming. It's not always easy or wonderful or lighthearted, but it's fruitful and life-giving and allows us to delve deeper into faith. Of course, once again, the words of that title should give us pause. How still do we let our souls be? As light and cheery as the "Holiday Season" (which soon will start around Easter and envelop Halloween) can make us during a cold/depressing/stressful time of year, how much of it is genuine joy and how much is an attempt to flee from reality? It doesn't mean we should all be killjoys and somber and solemn in this time (see below), but it does mean that examination of where our happiness, hopes, cheer, etc. stems is due.
Thirdly, there's an exhilaration that comes with Advent as we prepare for Christmas. For those a little too focused on the justice of Jesus and are tempted to go legalistic, pharisaic, pelagian, jansenist, etc., we have to remember that climax of the time of waiting: Christ, the Word made Flesh, God's only-begotten Son, entered the world as a helpless babe, was laid in a manger, and was human. The wisdom of years has looked at this self-disclosure of God, this demonstration of self-emptying, and seen from that moment (well, from the conception of Christ, but especially in the birth) the amazing love God has, even for those who would kill the Son of God. That's why I love the song "People Look East": there is a sense of awe and joy that we must have, one of wonderment and rejoicing, that the Word became flesh and dwelled among us. Make yourself ready, don't despair, for love is on the way.

I love Advent because it addresses those realities: where we objectively stand, both as less than dust in comparison to the perfection and majesty of God; our dependence on God for that very reason; and the hope that comes from the demonstration of love made manifest most fully in Jesus. The beauty of Advent, for me, is one that is too abundant, necessary, and life-giving for me to divert most of my energies to singing "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" (I absolutely abhor that song) or even to Christmas carols, or to bypass it in favor of simply thinking of "pre-Christmas" which culminates in one day of celebration and then ends (whether due to needing to think about New Year's and/or Valentine's Day or just because Christmas is "over"). To do that makes a superficial and trite sham of Christmas: it has its own OCTAVE, it has its own SEASON, partially because of everything that stands at the end of the last liturgical year and partially because of the grace that it is as demonstrated in part through the readings throughout Advent. I love Advent, then, for a fourth reason: it makes Christmas truly meaningful and allows me to more deeply understand and celebrate throughout the Christmas season instead of one day.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

In Tribute

You know, way back when it was time for Freshman year of college, I was distressed with the whole prospect of making friends again. I mean, the thrill of meeting new people is something I've come to truly love, and most of the people who've come into my life have been tremendous blessings. Even the acquaintances, if I simply reflect on what I know of their character, their personality, it's easy for me to be wowed. What can I say? I'm a softie.

That said, we return to the daunting task of the actual friendmaking. That discomfort, wondering when it's okay to unleash that particular brand of weird. It escapes and has escaped on its own, make no mistake, but there's that obstacle of the conscious articulation or imparting of it..."When can I be comfortable?" Sometimes the caution is prudent, sometimes I just gotta get over it and make the move and bring people in. I'm working on trusting the Spirit on that one.

Anyway, I was dreading it. I met some terrific people throughout my college experience, but that freshman year was a terrifying one, and I realized that I was living a very different life from...just about everybody in that University. Those who heard me talk about CUA after my freshman year probably thought I was going to transfer. I was pretty bitter, and overjoyed to jump back into that group of folks from high school who will always have a special place in my heart. And while there was some drama that summer, and growing pains were not the most fun thing, a truckload and more of good memories came from that summer, not to mention sleep deprivation and far more laughter than I can ever recall happening in my life since.

My senior year, I remember confiding to somebody that I was kind of sad that entertainment in this last year together had become focused on alcohol (legality made it the thing to do), not to mention that the sheer insanity that was summer (or even high school) escapades towered over the experiences I had in high school. I don't say this to belittle anybody in college, because I've met some of the most solid folks ever through that experience, and I always could have been more vocal (without belligerence) when challenged about my reluctance to go to bars. In any case, this friend was straight up blunt with me: I was whiney and living in the past. I'm sure it wasn't the most pastoral move, but it was a fair anecdotes revolved around my high school friends, my nostalgic waxing was for the Oregonian landscape and comfortable times with friends, and...well, you get the picture. Somebody without the context would be hard-pressed to be nearly as enthusiastic and certainly to relate to my story.

I guess she was right to some extent, but at the same time, Peru showed me that I had had a truly privileged upbringing. I mean, duh, materially: I graduated from college, went to a private high school, lived very comfortably, etc. But my richness was even more apparent in the quality of my friends, and I had no idea until I had heard how many people had suffered at the hands of friends who weren't nearly as loyal, not nearly as sympathetic or empathetic, supportive, etc. It was a shocking revelation, and it continues to amaze me in the vast majority of conversations where high school friends come up: "Wow, you still are in contact with your high school friends? That's...awesome!" "Dang, I don't have a single friend like that! You have about 20."

If you were to ask me HOW I managed to be graced with such amazing friends, I'd have to tell you that it was pretty much all their doing. I've been a pretty superficial friend in a lot of ways, definitely petty, and there's very little that I have done since good friendship was established 7+ years ago to merit such amazing friends. That's just further testimony to how great they are.

I said that I met some of the most solid folks in college. Well, only some of them. My high school friends are my first love (I can see certain people raising an eyebrow to jokes, please). This past weekend, I got to see the solidest of the solid get married. If that weren't amazing enough (and watching him be all manner of crazy excited, scared stiff, and launching beams of happiness to bound all over the great hall), there was a reunion of folks from high school. It was...kinda unreal. I hadn't seen a good number of folks in over 2 years. To dance with them was a joy I'd forgotten I'd missed so dearly until the music started, and once it did, I was sad to see the end of it. And even if I didn't get much sleep and even if I've got some papers due, I feel far more renewed than I ever would have expected going into that weekend.

The next month will be crazy, and life isn't gonna be like the first summer back from college. My friend was right: I can't live in the past. However, if you think for a second that I'm going to forget or downplay how absolutely fantastic it is to be with folks who, even after this time, can still pick up where we left off, you'd be dead wrong. I mentioned this a couple of posts ago: I so markedly don't deserve this caliber of friends, but I hope to be a little more worthy. Part of that is clearly being a better friend, and a part comes from loyalty. Loyalty, that is, to who I am, the facet that I'd not quite forgotten but definitely hadn't let loose until I was in the presence of everybody. So, here goes on both fronts.

As an afterthought, I'd simply add: I'd be a Musical Theater major in another life. I also love academia. Working to find a better way of satisfying both sides. Love to all.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


6 good months post-Peru, I realized more fully than I did upon my arrival: this isn't a displacement that can be ignored. I don't think I ever wanted to ignore it, really, but it's a natural impulse for me, i.e., I was in the States, so it's time to look at the State-side reality. I could talk about Peru, I could be critical of the US culture and the Peruvian one, and I could certainly tell stories. I could show off my Spanish, I could talk about how amazing the experience was, how nice some things about home are. For anybody who hadn't lived abroad, I bet I was convincing. Even for people who had lived somewhere else for a good period of time, I believe I did a good job. I definitely managed to keep myself at bay.

A single weekend undid it all. A retreat with a center on prayer, fellowship, and preparation for a wonderful formation experience going through 3 years allowed that small voice of truth to play its message at full volume from within because of the silence and prayerful mood without. I couldn't tell you what all was being said--it was so muddled, garbled, being expelled all at once, that all I could tell was that my attempts to make all things "okay" was disastrous.

I'm here about a quarter through the semester of graduate school, and I truly love it. It's an experience of learning through being drained, of relearning discipline I hadn't needed, and discovering some that I never had. Tackling these classes, this coursework, without a skeptical eye and eager to gather all the information my teachers posit as valuable, can be draining. Some days I find myself not feeling the "earnest scholar" mode rising to the surface of my mindset, but I am doing my best to be studious, devoted to community, and to prayer. It's a balancing act, to be sure, and I'm sure I'll not be perfect. I'm already not perfect: I should be asleep now. But at the same time, I wanted to make tangible somewhere and somehow a feeling that's been nagging at me. I miss Catholic U. I miss Oregon. I miss Lima. I miss the Andes. I miss people from all of those locations. In turn, I will miss this place upon leaving, perhaps even during vacations, and I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I'll miss these people and the attitude of the community.

I was reminded to thank God for both what I have and what I don't have. One of the hardest things for me to do is to thank God for not feeling absolutely blissful. I really like feeling good; heck, who doesn't? Perhaps now after a few ground-breaking moves around the world (mostly the US, but hey) I can settle and be content with contending with that realization that I'm not going to find wholeness in any one physical place. Andean instrumental music is a long series of love songs for my mind, Spanish and open markets and shockingly genuine people bring smiles and watery eyes, greenery and rolling hills and fresh smell of spring are vehicles to sublimity, old friends and the feeling of home are hard to beat, the grandeur of the National Shrine and closeness to friends and brothers tugs at my heart, and the crisp smell of a cold Fall night, music that at least weekly brings me to tears because of its beauty and its majesty...

No one place will make me happy, forever, without end. Many great gifts come from travel: new people, new cultures, new foods, deeper understanding of where one comes from, to name a few. One of the greatest gifts that I have received from traveling, though, is the gift of restlessness. The gift of restlessness awakens in a person the difficult fact that happiness is fleeting, pleasures only please so far, and no one place on Earth can fulfill the newly-aware heart's yearning, be it sighing slightly or tearing one apart from the inside. To be sure, this can lead to any number of not-so-great things, like addictions, thrill-seeking, superficial relationships to avoid missing people, being too busy to breathe. But none of these responses stem from a genuine dialogue with the heart: most try to stifle it, to stuff it with the "food" of experience, fleeting pleasures and aesthetic delight until it, being full to bursting, cannot utter a word of protest. This generally fails miserably, or people have to keep it going til they die. Depression seems to me to be a seeing that something is wrong or off and obsessing over the fact that it's not right. Is it wrong to get depressed? Eh, I wouldn't say that. It's sometimes part of the process, but if one hopes to get through it, dialogue is necessary.

If one is content to sit with the discomfort, listen to it, wrestle with it, dive into it, then one has the opportunity to discover perhaps a small taste of what allowed Paul to consider loss as gain, the martyrs to be willing to die, even what gave and gives joy to the saints and allows the greatest poets to capture the mystery of each moment. One might find the opportunity to find a stable resting place not of this world. I wouldn't say I'm there, but I'm grateful for the continued opportunity to plunge deeper into the mystery. I'm truly grateful at this moment for not having all things being hunky dorey, and I'm just as grateful if not more for the ability to see the possibility of grace acting in it. I pray for the ability to cooperate with it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Somewhere New

Where did the non-August months go? I've found myself itching for work to end, for the next step to come, and now I find it comes too soon.

Only slightly exaggerated. Getting ready is always a rush, and while there are plenty of nerves as I prepare to make the plunge I've been awaiting practically since being back in the States, there's a clear excitement to be moving on to the next step, to find similarities with blessings of communities and environments past and differences of new friends and places (physical, mental, spiritual).

My excitement for what lies ahead also gives me a sharp awareness of what I leave behind. For this reason, without beating myself up, but with hope for a better experience in the future, I must apologize to all involved in my Portland experience. Thank you for being here in a capacity of helping me to feel safe. Thank you for allowing me to pick up right where I left off, both in letting me know that some things never change and that changes in me necessitate a few changes in routine. Thank you, Portland, for greeting me in magnificent fashion each and every time I fly back into your arms, and for so graciously letting me experience the challenge of going forth from you into the rest of the world with no great measure of wist or envy. I pray you forgive me my obliviousness to the love shown me and unintended failure to reciprocate. May I someday come to treat you more as the true treasures you are, one and all, rather than merely (though blessedly and truly wonderfully) havens of safety.

Forgive me for continually using that safety as an excuse to express and admit my struggles, rather than having the decency and demonstrating my comfort with you by speaking. Most of it has less to do with lack of trust of you, and more to do with not wanting to deal with the stuff. It's funny how hard it's been to integrate the notion that I've that dimension of struggle that others do, and that it's okay. I promise that that's getting better. Bear with me.

Google visvamitrasana images. Challenge accepted. Might take me some years. Bear with me.

Been stretching and doing stuff pretty relentlessly today. Lots of anxiety, nerves, getting wrapped up in the details of packing and saying bye for now and what it'll be like getting one step closer to autonomy. Also, realizing that escaping to Neverland seems all too appealing in my weakest moments. Gotta stay grounded, and I thought that I was, but it turns out that I was just kinda in "blinders on" mode, and now that it's crunch time, the blinders are off, and I'm floating a bit more than I thought.

In any case, come Saturday, I'll be in the midwest, with new challenges and old ones, and thanks, everybody, for the love and support I so richly don't deserve. Love.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mortality, Spring, and an Update

Been a while. Some stuff has happened: went to Seattle, went to NY, have continued along the path of working part-time...but I think Holy Week has been one of the best moments for me, crazy as it was.

Holy Week was crazy because of several things: I was working full-time rather than part-time because staff was short-handed. I've done it before, but I remembered after this week that I had adopted a little less high-strung approach to the office cluttering up. Cleanliness in the areas nobody goes can wait; cleanliness where cluttering affects efficiency can't. Yeah, took me a week to remember that (much like last time, go figure), so before that realization I was on my feet from the moment I walked in the office til the moment I sat down in my car to go home (well, lunch excluded). That in and of itself is tiring, but hey, millions of people do it, and I've DONE it, so it's not like it's going to break me. What was slightly more taxing was the choir practices and Masses/Service throughout the week. We needed rehearsal, we did well, but going from work to those and standing the whole time...I'll just say my legs were exhausted.

Bright side of the week, though: lots of reflection that I didn't expect to get in the mayhem.

My first was on the nature of how I saw Good Friday. I've been spending a lot of time on really...I don't know, trying to go a little deeper. That's the beauty and the danger of the mysteries: There's always something more to discover, but staying on the same plane for too long leads to stagnation. As Fr. Regis would say, one has to "work the muscle." So after a long hiatus, it was time for a spiritual workout, and Triduum seems to be made for that. I've been having a hard time really processing or even beginning to process the Incarnation. I mean, the mere fact that it happened is mind-blowing, but the reasoning becomes even more difficult to swallow: "To be with you. Let me truly be among my people, let me be born as one of you, let me suffer hardships as one of you, let me grow, learn, and take on your being." Love. Imagine the devastation that Israel suffered in the loss of the Ark and the destruction of the first Temple. The place where God deigned His name might dwell destroyed, the vessel in that structure that held His commandments that was with Israel in its battles...the One God who chose to bring them close to Him, and the vessel where He was truly present in a special way...gone! Those who had hardened hearts perhaps decided when this horrible faith-shattering event occurred that something was bunk, or God was weak, or not really present, or perhaps just not faithful, and left it at that. Others began the profoundly more (initially) difficult process of dialoguing, reading, rediscovering the faith, lamenting their infidelity, calling to God with lamentations...a truly heart-breaking time. Then they were freed from captivity, they could go back to the Temple (which they could rebuild!). Then Alexander came, then the Romans, and jeez, it's easy to feel downtrodden and wondering where God is...and the Ark seemed to be lost forever.
For those who came to believe, I can't imagine how unbelievably beautiful and hard to believe it would be that God would stoop farther than have His Name dwell in a temple or an Ark...that His Word would become human?! To descend to such levels to embrace His people!

So yeah...first thought. Incarnation. This was in my mind as I entered Good Friday. And then in Good Friday's service, I started thinking about mortality. My grandparents certainly have limited years left on the globe. I envisioned my parents dying, which is scary, because I've always envisioned them as invisible. The notion my mom someday (perhaps soon) won't be able to accomplish everything or that my dad (ever young-appearing and relatively unaffected by his diabetes) might not be as able to contain his diabetes as he was really gave me pause. The idea of them not being present to call just to talk put a lump in my throat. Then I envisioned friends...those who are still very much here, those who have died...and the feeling of invincibility that I have, that arrogance of youth that it will last forever regardless of changing roles or years or responsibilities (there is the adage "youth is wasted on the young") vanished. It's mind-boggling, it's terrible, and it can be paralyzing.

The cruel and humiliating execution that was the Crucifixion took on a new dimension. I was able to FEEL a little more. I understood the suffering that was present throughout the day, from Gethsemane and beforehand on Holy Thursday (heck, going into Jerusalem, being baptized...but especially as it drew near) in Jesus' mind. The psychological pain makes me wince at least. Then I think of those who had the courage to stand and watch everything, and the feeling is all the more powerful. And man, someone who didn't have to even suffer chose to do that to BE WITH US THAT WE MIGHT BE WITH HIM?! Hmm...yeah, okay.

As much as I knew that Passion and Resurrection were connected, I viewed them as two discrete events rather than part of the same reality, i.e., God's love. The idea of Redemption becomes much more accessible from that perspective for me when I combine it with what I gather about the Incarnation. God is here. Undeniably. So rather than have what I believe to be misguided focus on the gore of the Crucifixion (though it's tricky, clearly, as the nature of the death emphasizes the extent of the love), I've tried to have more of a focus on the desire behind it. The desire wasn't to cheat the devil and laugh at him in a legalistic loophole, nor perhaps forgive something unforgivable, but to experience man's experience at its most visceral without sinning, able to touch every person and have that touch bring life and communion with God rather than perpetuate death, stagnation, isolation, hate.

It probably makes more sense in my mind's eye than in the blogger format.

Here's the other thought: Spring. It's here. I have been away from a legitimate spring for 5 years, catching the last whiffs of it in my first days back from DC, missing it entirely in Peru, and how I have missed it. Green grass, days of deluge with flowering trees and leafing trees, suns with the smell of freshness permeating everything, nights with moisture in the air and the perfume of flowers wafting down quiet streets. I understand a bit more that I'm not invincible nor immortal nor unchanging, but at the same time, it's amazing to have that surge of absolute joy that hangs in the air of spring and summer for those who deign to listen to it to breathe deep, almost drunk with it, and LIVE. Life is hanging here, tantalizing, pleading that we live it, more clearly than most places I've been, and yet...the number of people both young and old who choose to not grasp it pains me.

"I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Eyes Opened Up

I'll just go ahead and eat my words about the last post being my only update for a while.

It was helpful to have that welcome-back party, to have that brief time to talk about the struggle we have been facing and will continue to face as we return to a place that isn't quite the home we left. If nothing, it gave me the heads-up to what will come (that hadn't already), as I had arrived in the States two days prior to the talking. Through no fault of their own save not knowing any better, people can try to put the experience of Peru, of service, into a box, label it as a discrete experience that has been had, that is now over, and the box can go on a shelf like a trophy. I know that I'm prone to do it myself with any number of events that happen to ME, so yeah.

It's been a nice lesson realizing that...well, the experience isn't over. It's here, it's with me, in my memories of the jokes, in my blundering between Spanish and English and Spanglish, in things not feeling quite right when I come back to a place of less simplicity. At the moment, my heart is in Peru because that's where my love is, but in another equally important way, my heart always belonged in its mountains, in the Andean music, in my visions of flying above and in its canyons. My soul belongs amidst its language, in the warmth, its subtleties, and its simplicity. The being away, the rediscovery and reiteration of what's important to me, the chance to process in a different environment, gives me new perspective regarding everything from houses to the past. It is there, and it is a part of me, and I regret not telling anybody all of that when they ask me how Peru was. Though really, that's not what Peru was like; it's what the experience of doing service and living in Peru IS and still affects me even after I no longer physically live there nor do direct service.

Being here, a year and a half removed from people at college, at home, family and friends...Knowing what I know, seeing what I is it that it changes the past? Clearly events still happened, but with new perspective, new insight, all of a sudden the context is more fully seen. Hindsight, I guess, is the common name for it. In this instance, I guess it makes my path ahead clearer.

I guess I have less to say than I thought. Regardless, there you have it.

Monday, February 28, 2011


And the minutes are ticking, hustled into life and its business when what would really be nice is for everything to just freeze. I could go and read, or sit, or walk, or pray, or any combination. I could hike, I could dance, I could feel the ease of being in a simpler way, unencumbered by challenges to find personal growth in a different context and a different rhythm of life. I could sit in the verdant pasture, rested, protected, and reality would be exactly the way I'd wish it were in these moments: far more tailored to the needs I think I have in the way I think is best. If the years wouldn't perform their terrible dance; if all our friends were together again; if new friends could come, too; if all of life were more like the summers of joy and bliss that I experienced in 05, 06, and 07...that feeling of life being right, wouldn't things be better off?

I only work five hours a day and I feel encumbered. I don't generally have to wake up early or challenge my body, yet I'm exhausted. Vitamin deficiency is probably a player in all of this.

I suppose that just as life before Peru offered me a host of lessons, and my time in Peru gave me the chance to essentially have a clean slate, a way to reinvent myself, or go deeper into discovering who I am, life after Peru offers a host of lessons.

One of those is about poverty. I went to Notre Dame for a couple days to interview for their Masters of Divinity program and had the chance to hear them talk about Metz's "Poverty of Spirit." Embracing poverty can take many forms, whether it be in embracing one's finite nature, or in embracing God's infinite love, or in embracing one's handicaps, or in embracing one's ability and necessity to overcome those handicaps. To embrace it is to welcome the true human interaction, to be poor is to...well, be the richest and fullest you'll ever be capable of being.

I guess that's my chief struggle at the moment: surrendering everything. Video games can be a vice for me, and I might start playing them obsessively when I feel out of control, dissatisfied, or experiencing desolation. I can tell when I'm playing the console for that tiny little bit of control, or when I'm eating because it elicits some rudimentary form of interaction that I, me, Miguel, have initiated. Stopping is the next hump, I suppose. And...offering it up. Stopping is well and fine, but I guess there's that mentality that needs to change, too. The bottom line is that I'm not in control of much, but the challenge doesn't lie in seeing that, but in accepting it and, most of all, trusting that it's okay and that there are larger forces at work than just what I can see. That's poverty as I need it: surrender of that concept unto which I can cling ever so fiercely and aggressively that I am independent, self-sufficient, ought to be, and that who I truly am is something that much change in order to earn love, be it God's, my girlfriend's, my friends', my own.

I doubt it will be easy, but I'm on my way. Learning patience was a key thing. I can tell other people to have it, and I will work harder to exercise it on myself.

There was a moment this past week in which I thought about all the things I saw and strive in which to believe. I was surprised to weave through trying to envision love, or poverty, or humility, or trust, and found that a person awaited me at the end of all of it. There wasn't some intangible idea or word phrase that stood as the end result or motivation or example of the Christian life. It was a strange moment of knowing beyond any Thomist or Aristotelian logic's grasps that there was a certain necessity for Christianity to be an encounter with a person. It's like B-XVI said: it's not the result of a lofty moral choice or an idea. I guess this is all kind of "Well, duh!" stuff, but to truly experience it, to KNOW it, is much different than to spout it out.

This is as close as I'll get to a "State-Side" update for the time being.