Holy Week, 2014. One man embarks on a journey unparalleled. Full of self-discovery, dumb luck, and insanity, he goes from one place to another in the strangest of ways.
At this point I wish I could say the above was an over-exaggeration, but really it's merely a slight exaggeration. If that. This has been my first Holy Week as the Unofficial Official Converting Catholic (I made up the the title). I'm not officially a Catholic, though I will be (Lord willing) by next Easter. But if this Holy Week is to be the norm for all future Holy Weeks (and let's note that I never really celebrated Holy Week as a week before, but merely just Easter), then I may need to invest heavily in wine. Lots of wine.
I just need to put this out there because there doesn't seem to be any other way to tell the story otherwise. I can tell bits and pieces and have over the course of this week, but I suck at telling stories verbally most of the time. No, I'm more of a written story type of guy and here I can tell the whole story. Maybe on digital paper everything will make more sense. Or maybe my life is just as insane as I am. We'll start from the beginning.
I was Lector this Sunday and I got to get all dressed up, go to Mass, and read from the big book on the podium. I was Second Reader (little pressure) and I was the guy who didn't have a long passage. But I certainly had the bulk of the reading to do when I read The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ (I think?). I was the narrator and, though that seems to be a minor role in most stories, it isn't so much in the Catholic Church. I had a TON of stuff to read. I flubbed some of it (notably Jesus falling prostate) and felt I didn't do such a good job (despite nearly two hours of practice). People were like "Oh, you were fine" and "God has a sense of humor" and "There's no such thing as a perfect liturgy."
And I had to agree with that. I didn't disagree, though I certainly begrudgingly agreed. After service there was a meeting to discuss The Busy Person's Retreat, which was starting that next day. This is something that I had never heard of in the Baptist church (and as far as I'm aware doesn't exist) and basically boils down to a one-on-one session with a spiritual director/companion one day for a few days at a time. This director/companion would help guide you on the journey and that journey, this time, was asking the question "Who am I?"
I wasn't convinced when I was at the meeting that this was for me. I've been trying to answer that question for years now with little success. I was non-committed during the meeting. By the end, I was in and the Sister (she was a Sister of the Humility of Mary) was kind enough to work me into her schedule. I had never done anything like this before and I was skeptical. I was kind of scared, to be honest, simply because this had the potential to reveal a lot of things only those closest to me know.
But I did it. Not because I was brave or adventurous. Because I had the tingling feeling in my brain. The kind that says that something important is happening and you need to take notice. I had that feeling and then a voice popped into my head saying, "I should do this." So, I listened.
Sunday night ended with me half-watching/half-singing along to Frozen while chatting with my best friend online. Little did I know what was to come.
Monday began as it usually does for me: early. Unpleasantly so. I didn't get back to late and I didn't fall asleep till late, so Monday wasn't a very happy morning. I did what I needed to, took care of my duties, and then promptly fell back to asleep for a few hours. Though it wasn't a restful few hours.
Then I went to see the Sister. I had never done anything like this before so I was nervous. I had read over the material I was supposed to reflect on for Day 1 and felt like I had a bit of understanding of it, but didn't find it very revolutionary. It was just so-so. It was Monday and I didn't have high expectations.
So, when we got to our meeting place (a small chapel where I and others had prayed the Rosary a few times before), I wasn't expecting a lot but I was hopeful for something. We started out with this prayer:
Loving God, give me a heart that listens, a mind that pays attention, a soul that waits, ears that hear, and eyes that see. Amen.
It was different as far as openings are concerned. More so, as the Sister explained to me, this was a structured thing for her. She did something like this in every session with everyone, which meant I was operating under some form of routine. I didn't know it, she did, but the fact that there was a structure in place put me a bit at ease.
She then explained to me what she wanted this to be; rather than have her direct me, she wanted to act as my companion. As my guide. In order to do that, she wanted a bit of a life history. I had already discussed some of it previously with her the night before, but she wanted more. As most of you know at this point, I always have more.
So, I explained how I ended up as the Unofficial Official Converting Catholic and how that process, really, began when I decided to lose weight. All my decisions over the last three years can be traced back to that one moment. The Sister was blown away by my description of the last three years and the journey I went on. I told how certain people in my life had set the example for me, in more ways than one, and how I had come to value those people as family of the highest order.
The description of the last three years took about half the session, but by the end of it she came to a few conclusions. Firstly, I was a loyal and committed individual. I was stubborn but had "rootedness" (a word I had never come across before). I was unique, not odd (her argument was that I tended to see my traits in a negative light, which I can't really deny) and that I tended to use a lot of descriptors for myself that were very strong.
I was blunt, essentially.
All these things I agreed with. Part of me, while this was going on, felt relieved that she saw this as something that wasn't negative. It's not as though I regaled her with many positive tales of the traits (to be honest, I can't remember many positive tales at all). Part of me was disappointed that I wasn't being called out for being a complete ass or being lamented for having no sense. I wanted her to see wrong in me because I certainly see it (and feel it) a lot of days.
But she didn't. I'm not sure why. Maybe because she was trying to help and decided to ignore these things. Maybe because she simply didn't see them at all.
Whatever the case, after the long soliloquy from me, she gave me a slip of paper and asked me to jot down some marker points for my spiritual journey. There were a few. I've traveled around quite a bit and my journey has done the same. There were periods where I was alive and a solid period where I was dead.
I'm trying to be alive again, so to speak, and it's tough to remember how to live. Was I ever really into it, though? I don't think so. I operated on spiritual highs, not sustained consistency. Being alive in it is different than living it and that's what I'm attempting to do now.
At the end of the session, we prayed again and I exited feeling ... unburdened in a way. I'm not sure why I thought or felt like that. Maybe because this was just as much a spiritual discussion as it was a counseling session. But Monday ended much the same way as Sunday: chatting online with my best friend and our conversation, through no fault of my own, ended up on God. On why he forgives us and on why we're allowed to be forgiven in the first place, really.
It was a question I would ask the next day.
Tuesday was busy for me, more so than I planned. I attended Chrism Mass (beautiful if not a bit long) and then had my session with the Sister. She said I cleaned up very nicely (thanks?) and then we proceeded to our opening prayer before diving into reflections on yesterday. The Sister told me then that, when she thought about the journey I had described to her over the last three years or so, she drew a parallel to Jesus.
Jesus had a journey over a three year period that took him to many places and presented him with many challenges, things that he may not have necessarily wanted to face but did so because he loved us. The Sister argued that my journey was of a similar sort, one where I was presented with challenges and had undergone great change, much like Jesus.
That was the first and only time I can ever recall being compared to Jesus Christ. It was disturbing to me and still is now. I don't like it, though I see a few parallels, I certainly don't seen enough to justify that type of comparison.
Day Two of the sessions was about "Why I do what I do?" and that was yet another relevant question to me. I've been trying to determine why I do what I do for years, the last three or so (as with the other question). I don't know for sure. But the Sister and I discussed why Jesus did what he did and I then went about and threw out my ideas on why I do what I do.
The Sister came out with the idea that I have a very strict sense of justice. I see right and I see wrong. I see these things and I see them in very strict terms that don't allow for much grey and that's a quality that makes me passionate about some things. This had been pointed out to me a few weeks before by my best friend, which was strange that independently two people would reach this conclusion.
I see God as a creator. As a friend. As someone who has a sense of humor and is compassionate. But I have problems with God in terms of justice. I take issue with his sense of justice because it doesn't match mine. People I know and love, those I care dearly about, have suffered what I see as injustices and I want that to stop. I want them to be corrected and most, if not all, I can't even begin to affect.
God can. But he chooses not to a lot of times and that frustrates me. He has a plan, he has a way, and I have little understanding of it really.
The session came to a close, I went out and tried to absorb what I had learned. I took to writing to get some ideas out into the open and ended up finishing a series of fanfic novels I'd been working on sense 2008. It was an empty, regretful finish. I missed it then, I miss it now.
I then proceeded to a bible study, then came back to the Newman Center, before heading out for the night. I was anticipating my night being fairly low key till the next morning when I had another session with the Sister.
Instead, I got a phone call from a weird number that I didn't recognize. I ignored it at first, then got the call again and then I answered. Turned out it was my best friend on the other end of the line, calling from her computer. She needed some help.
She asked. I said yes. There really isn't much more than that to it, honestly. I was going to say yes no matter what pretty much. My schedule is never locked in, thankfully. I always maintain flexibility. So, I told her I'd help out and be there at her place ASAP. That entailed a six hour drive from Ohio to Virginia, which I made. That entailed a day of helping out without sleep, which I did.
The week since has proven that my qualities are my qualities. I am what I am, which is a strange mixture of things. I can't tell you the ratios. I can't explain to you why, really. I can guess. I don't think change is possible, at least in any great way, and I am lucky enough to have friends and family in my life that are very forgiving of me. That allow me to be me without too much issue.
There is a trust there that I can't begin to describe nor can I properly convey. But it's there and it's one of the greatest trusts that can be form between people.
The questions of "Who I am?" and "Why I am the way I am?" remain unanswered, for the most part. I wonder if they need to be answered at all, really. Will the answers help or hurt? I feel like they'll do both.
Holy Week has been a strange ordeal.
I wouldn't change it for the world.
Thanks for reading, folks. God Bless.